A few months ago my friend Lydia mentioned that she’d like to run a 5K by her next birthday, which happens to be in August. Well, August is still a few months away, and Lydia has doubled her original goal. She’s running a 10K this Saturday. Her first race ever. Exciting, and a little bit nerve-wracking, I’m sure. Racing is always nerve-wracking. But there are, of course, ways to make it less so. It’s no fun going into something new, not knowing what to expect, and not knowing how to make it more comfortable.

So, Lydia (and everyone) let me try to help you. The way you make things more comfortable is you practice. You practice what you are going to do on race day. In the weeks leading up to the race, eat what you will eat on race day before your training runs. During your runs, refuel when you plan to refuel during the race. Drink when you plan to drink. You do not wear new clothes. You do not wear new shoes. You wear clothes and shoes that you’ve tested and tried and that you know are comfortable. Because you want to be comfortable. You do not put gel packets in your sports bra. You do not eat raisin bran for breakfast if your body has been getting oatmeal.

I’ve heard of people who wore a cute new pair of shorts only to find, after a couple of miles, that the waistband chafed. Or they bought some new shoes and ended up with blisters on blisters where their feet should be. Maybe the chocolate covered cherries were the only thing that looked good that morning when you really needed something to calm your nerves, but you may regret that decision when you’re a couple of miles into the run and looking frantically for the nearest portajohn.

Don’t let it happen to you, Lydia. Do nothing new. Wear nothing new. Keep your race-day morning and familiar and comfortable and as boring as you can. You’ll have enough excitement to fill the rest of the day once the gun goes off. I promise. And good luck to you! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

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