It’s a feeling most runners have experienced. You’ve done your last session before a key race, and it’s just a few days to go before you’re pinning on that race bib. It’s the calm before the storm.
But over the years, I’ve found the way I experience this feeling changes with every race. Sometimes I’m confident, sometimes I’m so grateful for the taper I almost don’t want to race!
Before Bournemouth 10k back in October 2017, I was calm and confident. I had put in lots of high mileage weeks and new I could PB if I just put my mind to it. I didn’t run the most intelligent of races, and my splits were all over the place. My last mile was my slowest and took every ounce of mental grit to keep going. But I smashed my PB by almost 2 minutes.
That was a very simple race. Everything went to plan and my body was prepared to react to being pushed my by mind.
Of course, that doesn’t always happen.
A few months before Bournemouth, I had signed up to Gloucester Half Marathon. I’d put in a decent amount of training and new I could PB. But I put to much pressure on myself, I expected to PB and as a result didn’t listen to what my body was trying so desperately to tell me during the race. I bonked at mile 8 and had a miserable last few miles just trying to hang on.
So I’ve learnt that it really doesn’t matter how I experience that feeling in the build up to a big race. It doesn’t matter if I control it, let it overwhelm me, or don’t experience it until the last minute.
What matters is my attitude going into a race.
Confident but not ignorant. Motivated but not entitled. Prepared but not shut-off.
Knowing that this is going to hurt, but trusting yourself to know what is the right kind of hurt. Allowing yourself to find your stride without forcing it. Being pleasantly surprised when it all clicks into place and actually feels easy for a while. Willing yourself through when the going gets tough, but not running in fear of failure. This is meant to be fun, so enjoy it!
And that’s exactly how I’m approaching Cardiff Half this Sunday. So much has changed in my life over the last few months and there’s a good chance that will have impacted my performance. I’ve put in some great training, but it hasn’t been perfect. There’s things I would have done differently and that’s OK. If Sunday doesn’t go to plan, that doesn’t define me as a runner – it just shows what I was capable of on that day. If it does work out in my favour then great! It will be great to see all my hard work come to fruition.
How do you experience that feeling before a big race?
Does it affect how you race or is it just part and parcel of the process?