Culture

The ABCs (Literally) Of Running Your First Race

From anxiety to zen, here's your ABCs tune for how race day usually turns out.

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re new to running or a long-time runner, first-time racer, your inaugural event can be a little nerve-wracking.  From excitement about your first medal to the uncertainty of race protocols, your emotions can run the gamut of sheer exhilaration to pure dread. To help you prepare, here’s a list of what you can expect to go through, from A to Z:

A is for the anxiety you’ll probably feel the night before. Prepare for thoughts like, what if I oversleep?, what if I come in last? and I did remember to register, right??
B is for the breakfast you’ll be too nervous to eat, force yourself to eat, and then focus on keeping down.
C is for cramming a backup for everything into your duffel bag. Extra socks, extra shoelaces, extra sports bra- always be prepared, right?
D is for the drive to the event, during which everyone is driving OMG SO SLOW. You’ll be sure you’re going to miss your race (even though you left super early).
E is for the approximately eleventy-million elastics you’ll bring. One to hold your hair in place and the rest on your wrist in case any break mid-race.
F is for all the new friends you’ll make waiting to get going. Nothing bonds people like a shared love of running (not to mention pre-race jitters).
G is for getting warmed up. Put some of that nervous energy to good use and power walk, jog, do some jumping jacks for a few minutes—whatever you normally do to get ready.
H is for “How the heck do I put a bib on??”
I is for the insider who will show you how to perfectly pin that bib.
J is for just relaxing until it’s time to line up! It’s also for just kidding because no way can you relax when it’s almost time to line up.
K is for kinda having to pee. You went before you left the house but the nervous pees always set in. Don’t risk it; get in line for that porta potty now.
L is for the long, long line for the the porta potty. Good thing you got there early.
M is for taking your mark. This is it! One last deep breath and you’re off. Try not to get freaked out by the starting gun.
N is for negotiating your place in the pack. It may feel like the running of the bulls for a minute but everyone else will settle into their paces and you’ll fall in with runners just like you.
O is for OMG, I’m actually doing this! Once you find your spot and relax a little bit, it will dawn on you that you’re finally doing the thing you’ve been training for. Exciting!
P is for pace. You might start off a little faster or slower than you planned to thanks to all the excitement, so take a second to check your watch and get yourself on pace.
Q is for questioning why you were ever nervous. You know how to run. You’ve practiced. And it turns out this whole race atmosphere is pretty fun.
R is for running, duh! With all the anticipation surrounding your first race, you might forget what it’s all about, but once you get going you’ll remember how much you love running and why you’re here in the first place.
S is for how speedy you’ll suddenly become. The runner’s high will kick in, your excitement about the race will fuel you, and you’ll feel yourself running faster than you have before.
T is for thirst. Keep your eye out for the next aid station but do yourself a favor and slow down a bit before you grab a cup–you don’t want to be tye-dyed with Gatorade in your first official race photo.
U is for underwear issues. Even if you’ve trained in the same kind of bottoms, the extra anxiety and nervous sweat can make things bunch up in places you never dreamed of. If this happens to you, re-adjust as necessary. Everyone is going to be busy running and won’t pay your wedgie any mind. Just make sure everything is where it belongs before your finish line photo.
V is for vic-tor-y! Vic-tor-y! Or whatever pump-up chant you need to start repeating to yourself to keep going. Singing pretty much any Beyonce song in your head will work wonders too.
W is for wondering if you signed up for the wrong course. It’s just your adrenaline wearing off a little but if you’ve been powering along you might feel like the finish line should have been here by now.
X is for the x-ray you might think your head needs to figure out what kind of crazy you were to sign up for this. Hang in there, there’s still one more surge coming when you hear…
Y is for the yells and cheers of your friends and family as you get close. Nothing will get you more excited to push through the last tenth of a mile (except the thought of getting to stop).
Z is for the zen feeling you get when you cross the finish line. Now go home and catch some well-deserved zzz’s.