by Marcia Kadens
How do you get up the nerve to sign up for your first race?
In the words of the creative team at Nike: Just DO IT! Often easier said than done, I know.
I was MORTIFIED at my first 5k. Shaking in my non-running shoes and sh$%**ing a brick. When I spectated my first half marathon, in my mind the runners were super-human demi-gods. To say I was hyper-critical of myself and my own worst critic would be an understatement.
Here, some tidbits to help make that first race experience one that keeps you coming back for more:
- Choose a small neighborhood race. Something easy to get to eliminates many logistical challenges so the stress factor goes down.
- Train with a group or get a friend on board. In my case, I trained alone (on the mill no less) but my sister ran the race with me.
- Wear something that bolsters your confidence. Treat yourself. Remember this is supposed to be fun. I went out and got myself a Brooks singlet and shorts for my first 5k. I felt capable and great in it–like I fit in with the running crowd, even though I didn’t feel like it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have proper running shoes yet.
- Remember you are not alone. There are many, many new runners on the course with you and many spectators admiring your dedication.
Next squash those fears before you start. Some common ones:
- What if I embarrass myself? The reality: Everyone is so caught up in their own race and their own issues, they will not give you a second thought. Plus embarrassing moments make great war stories after the fact.
- What if I’m last? The reality: Chances of this are very slim and most races have a course sweeper to claim that honor. Trust me, not worth worrying about. You’re still ahead of everyone who stayed home on the couch!
- What if I throw up? The reality: This is an honor. BTDT. Embarrassing? Yes. Badass? Even more so. It just means you’re giving everything you’ve got. NO SHAME in that. Plus more war stories.
- What if I will trip/fall/hurt myself? Maybe you will, you probably won’t. Running will test your character. It teaches you to take what the day brings and make the most of it. So you fall. Get up. I’ve seen my share of face plants in races. I feel awful for the plantee. I think we all do. You’ll find you are capable of things you’d never imagined.
Here is the true beauty of running. As you navigate your way through the challenges and overcome roadblocks, parts of yourself that you may not have known about, or may have long forgotten about, will reveal themselves. Things like strength, tenacity, and perseverance. Qualities that will carry over in to other areas of your life.
Ok you’ve squashed the fears, now what do you replace them with?
My favorite: Fake it til you make it.
Fill your head with positive self talk. Even if you aren’t buying it. Pretend you’re a superstar out there every time you train. Maybe you don’t feel superstarish but use the self-fulfilling prophecy. Tell yourself something long enough and you’ll start to buy it. Like anything else, if you practice positive self-talk, it becomes second nature.
When you’re struggling in a race and doubts are creeping up, say to yourself something like: ”I have this fully under control. Yep, no worries, I am feeling great today” It may seem ridiculous but it diffuses the situation and you will start to BELIEVE it. Each training run builds a foundation of confidence. When you toe the starting line on race day, think back to the work you’ve done, how far you’ve come and all you’ve achieved. Use the race as a celebration of your hard work. The race is icing on the cake. Who doesn’t love icing?
Marcia Kadens is a stay-at-home-mom who, as part of a mid-life challenge, decided to run a marathon for kicks. She didn’t plan on it becoming a hobby, but it did. Marcia qualified for Boston at her second marathon and slipped into the running vortex. She has completed 6 full marathons and countless other distance races. You can follow this running, cycling, chocolate loving mother at MarciasHealthySlice.com.