You just might be planning to run a major race this Fall.  Finally, the weather is getting cooler, the leaves will be turning colors soon and your long summer training program is going to hopefully pay off.  Your big race can vary depending upon your individual goals.

The big race may be a major marathon like Chicago, New York, Columbus, Detroit or it may be a trail race or even a 10K or 5K run on a course known to produce great times. No matter what the distance or location of the race, if you deem the race to be an important one, then it is indeed important, even if it’s a local race with twenty-five runners.

     To get the most out of your big race this fall there are a few points that deserve attention. Mistakes are often made in the few days before a big race that can erase months of great training.  While it may seem obvious, don’t be tempted to change your training in the week or two before the race. Runners who try to get in just one more hard workout too close to the race have spoiled many great training programs. Don’t veer from your training plan as the big race nears. Trust yourself and your training plan. The real training has been done in the months leading up to the race. There is very little that can be done the week of the race that will greatly enhance race fitness, but overtraining and not properly tapering for a big race will most certainly negatively impact race performance. It’s better to err on the side of caution.  Before a big race it’s critical that you trust your training program and you are well rested. Keep in mind that when you go to the starting line you must trust yourself and “go with what you’ve got”. One of my favorite quotes is by Teddy Roosevelt who said, “do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. Doubting your training and fitness will only serve to increase anxiety and drain your emotional energy which you will need to put into your race.

     Confidence is also a key factor in performing up to your potential in a big race. If your confidence is lagging just remind yourself of the strong points in your running, all the training you’ve done and above all, remember the past races in which you’ve run well.  Make a short list of the reasons you should be confident, like the top three strong points of your running from both a physical and mental standpoint. Remember that confidence is your choice. Choose to be confident before the big race. Worry will do you no good whatsoever before a big race. Focus only on things that are under your control and forget things you can’t control, like other runners or the weather.  Nothing saps confidence and drains energy like worrying about things that you have no control over and you can do absolutely anything about.

     Before a big race is no time to experiment and take chances. All too often runners look for an “edge,” trying new things before a race, often with disastrous results. They read about a new sports drink, new shoe, or new stretch and decide to try it for the first time at the most important race of the year. Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea! Stick with foods you know, wear shoes that are broken in and don’t try new “exercises” you see being done at a runners expo. Training is the time to experiment. Just because some other runner is doing something before a race doesn’t mean it is what’s best for you. Being confident in your normal routine is very important. Remember to rely on what has worked for you in past races. If you learn something new at the big race, wait and try it when you get back home and begin to prepare for you next big event.

     Keep in mind that even though you plan your trip and training schedule for the big race with utmost care, things are probably not going to turn out perfectly like you expect. Travel schedules can be interrupted by weather and cancellations. The bed in your hotel room might be a little too soft or firm for your liking. The food you eat may not be cooked exactly like at home. Your race warm-up may need to be modified because of transportation delays getting to the starting line or being forced to into the starting area many minutes before the actual start of the race. Hey, in most cases you can’t control these things and you will need to learn to adapt as you go. One of my graduate school classmates and USA Track and Filed Sport Psychologist, Dr. Rick McGuire, says, “You have got to expect the unexpected”. Even your race isn’t going to be perfect. Runners are human and perfect humans don’t exist. Don’t get down on yourself if your race doesn’t go as planned or you don’t run as fast as you would have liked. All you can do is give your absolute best effort.

     Finally, the big race should be a FUN experience. If running isn’t fun then why are you still out there pounding the pavement? If you have the opportunity to run an event that you have always dreamed of, then enjoy every minute of the experience from the planning to the actual running of the race. If you are relaxed and enjoying yourself then your race performance is going to certainly be enhanced. Enjoy the competition and enjoy the atmosphere associated with the event. Hopefully, you will come away from the big race with some really great memories that will last a lifetime.

     Part of the enjoyment of running is getting to participate in popular events. So this fall have a wonderful experience in your big race and enjoy it to the greatest degree. Once you get back home you can then start planning your big race for 2023! Best of luck and stay healthy!

     Dr. Ferguson is Chair of the Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Science Department at Averett University and is an AASP Certified Sport Psychology Consultant.  He may be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Read more of Richard Ferguson articles on www.runohio.com
Challenge Yourself!!! - https://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/253-challenge-yourself-by-richard-ferguson-ph-d           

Now We’re Stressed Out! - http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/164-now-we-re-stressed-out-by-richard-ferguson-ph-d   

Confidence: It’s Your Choice -  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/60-confidence-it-s-your-choice   

What Is Mental Toughness? -   http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/90-what-is-mental-toughness  

Don’t Panic!  -  http://runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/107-don-t-panic-by-richard-ferguson-ph-d   

Bouncing Back - https://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/197-bouncing-back 

A More Positive Approach to Running - https://www.runohio.com/index.php/news-features/features/175-a-more-positive-approach-to-running