Six ways to get over race-day nerves

Racing can be stressful. You get up early, force yourself to eat something and head off to the course. You get there and see hundreds (or even thousands) of people, and your mind starts spinning. You know you’re ready, but worries begin to creep in, all the same. You’re probably always going to have pre-race jitters (everyone gets them), but there are a few ways you can deal with them and perhaps alleviate some of your stress. Here are five tips to get you through race morning and onto the start line without experiencing too much anxiety. 

1.- Envision the start 

Throughout your training block, imagine it’s race day and mentally take yourself through the lead-up to the run. Picture yourself getting up early, eating breakfast and arriving at the venue. Imagine getting your bib, doing your warmup and finding your corral ahead of the start. This won’t eliminate all of your stress, but visualizing getting through all these steps ahead of time may help reduce your jitters when race day arrives for real.

2.- Focus on yourself 

Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s so easy to look around at all of the other runners on race day, but do yourself a favour, and try to pay them as little attention as possible. You can’t control how well they run, so why worry about them before the start of the race? You can only control your own effort. Don’t stress about how everyone else might perform (or about how they look). 

3.- Warm up before the run

Doing a warmup before your race is super important physically, but it can also help your mental game. As you go for a light jog or run through some drills (plan on giving yourself at least 20 minutes), you’ll be focused on the task at hand, rather than the fact that you’re about to start a big race. A warmup will distract you and help calm you down before you make your way to the start line. (Some relaxing music in your earbuds might also help.)

4.- Think back to your training

The night before your race or during your drive to the course, look through your training history, whether that’s in a journal or on a run tracking app. Revisiting workouts from your most recent training block will help remind you that you’ve put in the work, and that you’re ready to race. Knowing that you’re ready might not free you of all nerves, but it should reassure you that you could potentially have a great race. 

5.- Convert your jitters to excitement 

There’s only a slight difference, neurologists say, between nervousness and excitement, and it pays to remember this on race morning. Ultimately, you can’t get rid of your jitters completely, so it’s best to embrace them, and try to think in terms of looking forward to being in the race, instead of fearing it. Once that starting gun fires, you’ll likely just be in the moment, experiencing whatever happens, and enjoying every minute.

posted Saturday March 11th
by Running Magazine