Visualize Yourself Running in the State Meet
Although this article is geared to high school cross country runners, the general point is applicable to athletes of any age preparing for a big race. Before you reach for a goal, you must first imagine what that goal looks like.
If you’re a high school runner looking to run in the state championships, it is helpful to know what to expect going into the meet. The more familiar you are with the setting in advance, the less “unknowns” you have to deal with on race day.
An ideal way to prepare for a future state championship meet is to attend as a spectator. Especially if you have team members who will be competing, this will be an excellent way to support them and gain some insight into the process with an eye toward being part of a future year’s team that makes the trip.
If you go to watch, be sure to take your running shoes. Run the course when it’s open for training the day before. This will give you some valuable experience on the course. Then, on race day, wake up and get in a warmup run before the meet starts, just like you would do if you were competing yourself.
Finally, be sure to pay attention to the staging details. What does the start area look like? What does the finish chute look like? Where can runners warm up? How far in advance of the race start must you report to the staging area? And, of course, where are the toilets? Although the precise details may be different when you return the following year to race, understanding the general routine will allow you to return as a “veteran” even if it will be your first time competing there.
Here’s a video clip taken at this year’s California State High School Cross Country Championships in Fresno. As you’ll hear, there’s quite a long list of instructions read by the announcer as the runners are held at the starting line for what might seem like an eternity to a competitor eager to get the race underway. Being ready to expect details like this in advance will make the “newness” of the experience more familiar even if it’s your first time there.
Visiting in person or watching videos of the state meet on YouTube can help you visualize your own performance on race day. Whether you’re shooting for a personal record or a state record, the more familiar you are with the course and protocols, the more relaxed you can be as you step up to the starting line. It will then be just another day in the park for a fast run!
But in case you are aiming for a state record, here’s a video of what it looks like when one is broken. This year, Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley High School ran to a new course record at Fresno’s Woodward Park for the CIF State Cross Country Championships. Baxter ran 16:39.7 over the 5K course, eclipsing the previous mark set by Julia Stamps of Santa Rosa 16 years ago. (full coverage)
Map of the 5K cross country course for the California State Championships in Fresno’s Woodward Park: