7 ways to deal with pre-race nerves
By: Pat Riley
1. Race Often
The best way to get past the feeling of anxiety when racing is to race often. Get out once or twice a month and jump in a race. The more that you race, the less stress you will feel when toeing the starting line.
I used to race all the time. Almost every weekend and before I knew it, I could wake up and go through my normal pre-race routine and head to the starting line with a clear head and no nerves at all.
2. Start Early – Have confidence in your training
The best and most solid way to beat pre-race nerves and give yourself the best chance at success is to dedicate yourself to the daily grind. The small decisions on a daily basis to go through the entire workout, eat right, don’t cheat on your diet, get plenty of rest, and skip those alcoholic drinks go a long way when you are hours away from the starting gun.
Knowing that you did everything right leading up to this big race will be a huge relief and something that you can mentally fall back on.
3. Stick to your routine
As mentioned in #1, I raced a lot and stuck to my routine at almost every race. It might have taken me some time to establish a routine that I knew worked for me, but once I had it (And it still can change a little), I knew what to do next to get my body ready to race.
This routine can also include what you do the day before a race and even the week leading up to the race.
For my Boston Marathon training cycle, I found myself eating BBQ Chicken Pizza on the Saturday evening before my Sunday Long Run. This worked really well for me as I would typically have some leftover and would eat a cold slice the next morning about 30 minutes before I headed out for my long run.
Because I established this routine, and I know it worked for me, the evening before and the morning of the race, I ate BBQ Chicken Pizza. If you are not carbo-loading with pasta for your long runs, don’t change it up at the last minute and risk upsetting your body in some way that might cause you to have a bad race.
Finally, routines are comforting as we can always guess what comes next. A routine is peaceful for the mind and that is exactly what you need before your race!
4. Be Informed
Check the race’s website to get all the information you can on packet pickup, bib number placement, course info, parking info, and everything else you need to know about the morning of the race. Visualize the race site and starting area. Go through a mental (And sometimes it helps to write it down) checklist of what you need to do, when you need to do it, and how you are going to do it. Don’t let a crowded parking lot and pre-race traffic jam get you stressed out before your race. Figure out the best way to get to the race long before race day.
5. Check out the starting line before the morning of the event
Check out where the start is and what it looks like. This will give you some peace of mind when there are hundreds or thousands of people there on race day. If you get to the race early, head down to the start. A lot of seasoned runners will be doing the same thing so there is no shame is checking it out before the race day.
When you get to the starting area, make sure you find different paths to get to the start in case of a crowded area that you want to get around. Having multiple options will allow you to get to where you want to be with ease.
6. Hang out with friends
The worst thing you can do is stay inside your own head. Make sure you are around people that will allow you to rest and prepare for your big race while keeping your mind off of it. Enjoy the race experience and go out and chat with people. Hang out with your old friends, rekindle an old friendship, or chat with a family member.
7. Prepare your outfit the day before
All elite runners set out their race outfit the night before and double check that they have everything. If your race has a packet pick up the night before the race, go and get your bib number and pin it on your shirt. This is one less thing to deal with on race morning.
For a mega-big race (Boston Marathon for me), I had my outfit picked out a week or two in advance. I ran a couple of tempo runs in the outfit to test it and made sure that it wasn’t tight in any areas and limiting my movement while ensuring that chaffing wouldn’t be an issue.