One of my favorite parts of being a runner is the racing aspect. OK, I don't care for the 5 a.m. pre-sunrise wakeup call and the nerves that follow. But everything else that goes along with it — the excitement, the adrenaline as I cross the finish, and doing it all alongside thousands of other runners — I love.
Like many others who were eager for running season in 2020, I have learned to adapt as at least four of the races I had on the calendar were canceled or postponed. Now, with my biggest race of the year — the London Marathon — on the fence this fall, I'm learning to stay motivated in new ways. While a will-it-or-won't-it-happen race is fueling my running motivation, at the end of the day, I still technically have to put in the work and train for a marathon regardless of the outcome.
I may not have mastered exactly how to navigate these uncharted waters, but like so many others, I'm doing my best and taking it each day at a time. In fact, I've found that the best way for me to stay on track for race day is to practice these four seemingly little but impactful things.
It may sound silly, but it truly comes down to staying active. It can be challenging to want to stick to a strenuous marathon training plan when there's about a 50-50 chance of getting to actually run the race. But nevertheless, I'm finding comfort in putting in the work anyhow.
And that's why I move each and every single day. Whether I'm crossing off one of my longer training runs, lacing up those UA TriBase™ Reign 2 Training Shoes ($140) for a streaming HIIT class at home, or doing something as simple as walking around the block, as long as I'm moving, I'm working toward my race day.
Enjoy a Stretch
Historically, I've packed my schedule so tight with activities and races that taking a minute just to catch my breath, stretch my body, and relax hasn't really been an option. Now more than ever, I'm finding the benefit in taking a breather.
That can take many forms. For me, I've physically been taking a few minutes daily to stretch out my body. Usually, I only stretch because I feel tight from a workout or tweak something on a run. But that's not quite enough for me these days. There is so much uncertainty and pressure from factors outside of training that I feel tenser and tighter than ever. This can lead to serious injury or burnout if ignored. So that's precisely why I'm embracing a looser schedule and treating my body to some healing stretches, slow flows, and gentle meditation breaks. It may seem small, but I have a feeling this may be just what comes in handy to calm race-day jitters — whenever the next race day is.
Visualize the Finish
I'm absolutely aware how cliche it is to have my "eyes on the prize," but man, it helps. There's not a day that goes by when I'm not flooded with emotion about my first international marathon and fifth overall. From the logistics of flying there to the anxiety of training in 90-degree NYC heat, thoughts of my race pop up throughout the day.
Instead of letting these thoughts overwhelm me, I've been taking a minute (or a few) each day to visualize my goal at hand. Sometimes it's OK to push the fears and worries to the side and just enjoy the excitement as it comes. It's kind of like the race itself: scary and painful for 90 percent of the time, but awesome and amazing for the homestretch. Ultimately, it's always the emotion during the homestretch that overpowers all and causes me to sign up for my next race.
Check In With Myself
As much as I'm training, stretching, fueling my body, and visualizing the finish, none of that matters if I don't do a quick little check with myself. Just as it's a good idea to check in with any of your friends and colleagues who are challenging themselves with a physical feat like a marathon (seriously, ask your runner friends how their race training is going, they'll appreciate the acknowledgment of their work!), it's a good idea to ask yourself how you're doing.
I never realized just how important this was until my normal running and racing schedule got thrown for a loop. Asking myself what my body and mind need that day — even if it's a rest day — has helped me stay calm, eager, and motivated to train.