At the Austin marathon, I was gunning for a BQ. I had spent months training for the big day, suffered a concussion and still made it out to log my long runs. Unfortunately, on race day I was keeping my nutrition down and as a result, I did not BQ. In fact, I was lucky enough to even finish the race, but I did end up in the medic’s tent at the finish.
Even though I was disappointed, this experience taught me something. Typically in races where I am trying to get a PR or make the podium, I tend to not appreciate the experience of the race and where I am running. I don’t take in the race day atmosphere because I am so focused on doing well. But because of my situation during this race, and the fact that I knew I was not going to accomplish my goal, I was able to enjoy myself and appreciate the race for what it was.
Thanks to the Austin Marathon, my boyfriend now will always remind to the appreciate the race for what it is and the fact that I can actually do these races. He also makes a point to say that I love this sport, so why not look around and enjoy the moment I am in rather than let it pass me by. If you are running a marathon, why not actually remember it rather than the pain you went through to finish.
So every time I race, I always try to follow these 9 tips for race day enjoyment, and I highly encourage you to do so as well.
1. Pay attention to the runners, volunteers, and the families cheering you on.
They will make your race even more memorable. Take the time to appreciate that lady running in a tutu or the guy pushing someone in a stroller. Interact with the lady at the aid station reminding you that you’ve been training for this moment and it’s almost done. Because I have a feeling, you are more likely to remember that little girl whom you made smile because you took an orange slice from her than you are to remember mile 17.
2. Go ahead and take a selfie!
You just passed a guy in a getup or a funny sign, pull out your phone and take a photo. That way you can remember the moment even more and look back at something that made you smile.
3. Interact with the kids.
They are out there with their parents, handing out water or holding up signs. They probably have no clue what you are going through, but they are adorable, and they are there to cheer you on. Give ‘em a high five, take some water or an orange. It will probably make their day more than yours.
4. Partake in the funny festivities.
Some races are very silly and the spectators really get into the spirit. Some are handing out beer, donuts, mimosas or something else incredibly random. Take one! Well maybe don’t eat the whole donut because you don’t need any more gastric distress and don’t guzzle down the entire drink because you don’t want to get drunk. But it could give you that boost of energy you need or heck, something delicious to give you a break from gels.
5. Look at the marathon signs!
My all-time favorite thing to do is read the signs. They will give you that moment of laughter you need. At the Austin marathon, I read a sign that said “Brian Williams said he ran next to you the whole time”. I died laughing. Those signs literally got me through the mental blocks and rough times I experienced while running.
6. Say thank you!
You know that encouraging word to get you moving again? Those people are out there cheering you on for a reason. Tell them you appreciate it! If your parents, loved ones or friends are out cheering you on, and you know where they will be standing, hug them, thank them and keep going. Knowing that someone is there for you is great, but being able to share a moment with them during a marathon is even better.
7. Dance your butt off!
I give full approval to dance and enjoy yourself when you hear a fun song come on when you run by an aid station or at the finish line. Not only will the song perk you up, but dancing can give you energy and make you happier. It will also take your mind off of going up that hill for a few seconds.
8. Turn off your music.
Appreciate the words, the natural sounds and the atmosphere. Most of the time, people who are running with music aren’t actually listening to what is going on around them. Without music, you feed off the energy from the crowd and become a part of the celebration.
So I challenge you. The next time you run a race, not matter the distance, try and actually remember the moment. Because when you look back on the moment, what do you want to remember? The pain you experienced in your legs, or a college kids on their lawn still drunk from the night before?