Race day traditions and dealing with self-confidence

I have developed a bit of a race day tradition—when I finish a race, I like to register for my next feat on the same day. I’ve found that this inspires me to keep training on a regular basis, to keep all my fitness and health routines under controls.

Even as a kid I’ve always liked to have something to look forward to. When a birthday passed or a big class field trip that I’d been looking forward to, I would get so disappointed it was over (especially if it didn’t live up to my high expectations). I found it helped to redirect that sadness into excitement for the next event, whether it was a sleepover, a special dinner, or a holiday.

We never really grow out of all our childhood tendencies and when I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon in May of 2013 I felt such immense pride and happiness. Hours later I knew I wanted to feel that way again, to have something to look forward to when on my rainy day training runs or days when I just would rather do anything but workout.

Runners from all over always explain how race running is addictive, something about the chemical balance and endorphins. I haven’t looked into the science but I’ve accepted that this addiction would be a part of my life the moment I crossed my first finish line.

While I’m sure crossing a finish line is rewarding for every runner, even the most fit, I found it to be especially rewarding given that a few months before I finished my first half-marathon I could barely run a single mile on the treadmill without stopping to catch my breath. This was a huge personal accomplishment and something I never thought I would ever be able to do.

When I first began training for my first half-marathon I was inspired by a few things. I had just gone through a huge break-up and had spent three years investing my time and energy into this relationship at the expense of myself. I had gained quite a lot of weight in those three years for various reasons (relationship issues, significant other’s eating habits, stress and over-commitment in school, etc.) all of which are likely just excuses that equate to a simple fact, that I stopped being active and over-ate constantly. When it came to self-confidence, I was a shadow of my former self. So the day I finally ended my relationship, I registered for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. I focused all of my energy on achieving this goal of running 13.1 miles in 7 months. I never thought I could do it, right up to the last mile of my race.

I still seem to doubt myself on the morning of a big race, despite having run handfuls of 5ks, 10ks, and two half-marathons in the past year. While I’m sure this lack of confidence will disappear over time as I become more fit and run more races, for now the race day jitters are fixtures in my race day routine. My mental dialogue while waiting in the queue at the starting line of a big race is usually something like “can I really do this? Am I actually about to run 13.1 miles? Is it too late to quit?” But somehow, when the gun goes off and we start running the self-doubt disappears.

I look forward to the day when I can look in a mirror or look at my wall display of race finisher’s medal and think: “I am a runner.” That hasn’t happened just yet. For now on race days I remind myself that I’ve done it before, so there is no reason I can’t do it again. I am never as confident in my running ability as I am hours after I cross a finish line, and because of that I know there is no better time to commit to my next race.

When do you register for a race? Do you have any race day traditions? Do you ever struggle with self-confidence? Tell me about it in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you.

Work hard and radiate positive vibes,


Meela Dudley

Meela is the founder of health, fitness, and lifestyle blog Irieday.com.