The night before a recent race, a friend was worried. “I’m not ready,” she lamented. “I haven’t run the course, I’ve done mostly treadmill, and my stomach’s bothering me.” She was about ready to talk herself out of the race. But earlier in the conversation, she had just told me she had successfully completed a Couch-To-5k plan.

“You’re ready,” I assured her. “It’s just butterflies.”

“Butterflies? Hmm, I guess so.” It hasn’t occurred to her that being nervous about a race was normal.

I went on to explain that I still get butterflies before every race. My butterflies tend to manifest themselves in tweaking my running playlist a thousand times, experimenting ad nauseum with various ponytail angles, or digging through random bags anxiously looking for that Chocolate Expresso GU I know I saw last week. When you’ve put so much work and time and energy into a specific goal, there’s a fear that something will go horribly awry, and all that work will be for nothing.

But it’s precisely that fear that pushes us to do well. If running were easy, everyone would be doing it. (Well, it does seem like everyone’s doing it these days, am I right?) If I’m not nervous, then I know that something’s amiss. It means that I haven’t pushed myself in my training. Being nervous also keeps you on your toes thereby possibly keeping you from making a stupid mistake…anything from forgetting your race number at home to not watching you’re going and doing a face plant (not like I’ve done those things, ahem).

And so what if something goes horribly wrong? Well…it happens. I’m hear to say that yes, it IS majorly disappointing…and then you get over it. When I was training for what would have been my first half marathon, my husband went into the hospital with a severe back injury two days before the race. After weeks of preparation and buildup and major butterflies…I did not run the race. I was completely bummed (and a little angry at the universe,
truthfully), but obviously my priorities took a sudden shift. I figured out pretty quickly that not running the race wasn’t the end of the world (having hubby in hospital was close enough).

I ended up running my first half marathon 7 months later. Looking back, it’s probably a good thing. My body was stronger and much more prepared to take the pounding with the additional months of training, and I think I ran a better/smarter race to show for it.

Here are some things that I do to get rid of the butterflies:

  • Lay out my race outfit and race bag the night before. I even layout socks, race number pinned, ponytail holders, GU, etc. I am the worst at putting out my work clothes the night before, but somehow I can do it the night before races. Knowing that my favorite running shorts aren’t still wet in the washing machine is a good thing.
  • Be familiar with the course when possible, even if it’s just driving it, or studying the map.
  • Try to sleep well the night before. I take Ambien (don’t judge – it works!) the night before big races, as I can’t get my brain to shut off. Because it requires you to get 7-8 hours sleep, I know I MUST get to bed on time, and I’ll feel all rested and refreshed in the morning.
Nervous butterflies!

These guys look a little nervous, too.

So if you’re feeling a little anxious in the days leading up to the race, it’s okay.
It’s just these guys making sure you’ll do your best. Or it’s that Indian food. Nah, it’s probably butterflies.

P.S. I’ve already got butterflies for my first 26.2. Please consider donating while I run for a good cause.