Race day.. we’ve all been there. Endless trips to the bathroom, and a stomach that feels like it not only has butterflies in it, but the entire cast of STOMP the musical! Whether you are running your local 10k, a fun run in the park or a Diamond League the feeling is all too familiar.
I am no exception, you may think that with experience on a world stage I’d have mastered these nervous energies, well think again. I often wish I was one of those super happy race day runners. You may be one of them, or maybe you know one. The people who smile and are super excited to be racing, I am jealous of these people. As I sit at breakfast staring over what once was my favourite meal of the day I curse race day! This weetabix and slice of toast are now my Everest. Slight over exaggeration but I kid you not, breakfast is often a struggle.
So why do I do it? If racing comes with so much negative feeling, why do I put myself through it, and bear in mind I’ve only spoken about breakfast! You see for me these feelings are unavoidable. I’ve spoken to my sport psych about it, and it’s just me. For me these nerves show me how important this race is to me, they make me the racer I am. When I step out on the track that race is an accumulation of every step I’ve ran up to this point. Every grueling winter session in the wind and rain, legs burning as I make my way up the three rock, my training group in tow. Every scorching summer session on a sun beaten track clocking down the reps. Not only that but every stop-watch pressed by my coach, every mile driven by my parents. All these events have led to this race… all that hard work for today.
Before my 1500m final at the European Athletics championships last year, I lay in bed staring at the hotel room ceiling, made my way to breakfast and as I pushed some scrambled egg around the plate I wished the day would be over. If a fairy god mother appeared to me, at that point if the wicked witch appeared and offered me a sleeping potion I’d have taken it. One that would enable me to sleep the day through, yet still run the race then wake up that night and find out how I did, well I would be all too happy. Unfortunately, such a lady does not exist in this fairy tale and I am glad. As tough as the day may have felt I look back on every second with a smile.
That evening after meeting my family I bumped into Dave Gillick (Two Time European Indoor 400m Champion, Olympian, and Irish Record Holder) on my way back to my room. As I handed over my medal (I took the Bronze that day) with a huge smile on my face Dave laughed and reminded me of the Ciara from breakfast and he told me something I’ve always tried to remember. He shared with me the feeling he felt when he stopped racing, and told me that nothing else can ever replace that race day feeling. Nothing comes close. So make the most of it because you’ll miss it when it’s gone!
So now, following a successful outing at the National Track and Field Championships and with the World championships only around the corner I think, okay, you love this, all the hard work is done, so relish it! For when I’m 60, I’ll look back and wish I was back here, 25-year-old Ciara tearing up the track. So next race day, when the nerves are tightening like a knot around your stomach smile and say, welcome back old friend… it’s time for business!