Have you ever done an event that wasn't as fun as you anticipated? Was the weather lousy? Did you finish with a less-than-desired finish time? Did some of the other runners cut you off, or get in your way?
Trust me, you are not alone. Just like every training run will not be "ideal," the same holds true for races. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to turn the event around and make the best of it. Here are some tips I have found to make race day enjoyable.
First and foremost, don't be afraid to have fun. Granted, you have trained and probably have an estimated finish time you're striving towards, but focusing solely on your splits, pace and stride may drive you crazy. Unless you're an elite or desperately trying to qualify for Boston, take time to enjoy the experience of being there. Look around you occasionally as you make your way through the course. There will probably be spectators cheering and ringing cow bells, they're there to support you and all the other runners. Read their signs and enjoy the noise!
And while you're at it, high-5 as many spectators as you can. Kids especially love runners, you're a super hero to them. You may not have time to sign autographs, but giving them a high-5 will totally make their day.
If the event has a theme, dressing in costume will add to the party atmosphere. I'm not suggesting sporting a cumbersome Halloween get-up with a full mask (you do need to keep your legs moving and your vision clear), but a silly hat or frilly tutu will make you look (and probably feel) like a fun-loving person who is there to have a good time. Lighten up! Running does not have to be serious all the time.
Run with friends, and don't obsess over who will finish first or last. Run to simply be running together, and supporting each others' efforts towards a healthy lifestyle. (and if you're all dressed in matching outfits, even better!)
Lose the watch (once in awhile). You'd be surprised just how much faster you can run when you have no idea how fast you are really going. You may enjoy the freedom of not having a bunch of numbers dictating your efforts. You might even PR or place in your age division! (been there, done that)
If it's a big event, there may be photographers along the course. For the sake of all things holy, ham it up for them! They are sitting there (translation-they are not moving), so they are probably cold and bored. Flash them a smile, flex the biceps or wave the arms high in the air. You will like these pics much better than the ones of you gasping for air with that "ugly" runner frown.
Talk amongst yourselves. Literally. Not all runners are able to run and talk at the same time, so if you're able to do so....chat it up! That "great job!" or "looking good!" or "don't stop now!" may be just the little push someone needs to keep going. Don't be afraid to cheer on your "opponents," even if you have to slow down briefly to do so. Pay it forward.
Last, but certainly not least, thank every volunteer you come in contact with. The person giving you your race packet, the one who hands you water, the one who helps remove the timing chip or bib tag, the one who places the medal around your neck. Many of them are runners themselves, sacrificing their run so you can do yours.
The vast majority of us may never win a race, or even place in our division. That's alright. Why not just enjoy the experience?