No matter how physically well-prepared a runner is for race day, fighting the mental side of running can be the biggest obstacle. From worrying about the competition to being concerned whether training went well enough to be able to finish the race, every runner faces similar anxieties. The difference among athletes, however, is how they handle these fears and keep nervousness at bay.
The best way to overcome pre-race anxiety is to race as often as your schedule allows. Anxiety is typically most severe when racing a new distance or when having not raced in a substantial amount of time. The best way to arrive at your goal race feeling fresh and confident is to compete in 1 – 3 smaller races in the months leading up to the important one. For instance, if training for a marathon then a couple low key 5k or 10k races, as well as a half marathon a month from race day, will keep you in the proper mind set.
Have a Plan
Approach the race with a detailed plan for everything you will do within the 24 hours leading up to race time. If traveling to a different city, decide ahead of time where you will eat dinner the night before and what you will have for breakfast the morning of. Decide on an outfit for the race, and be sure to practice running in those clothes to make sure everything fits and doesn’t chafe. Commit to a plan for the first half of the race, such as going out in a certain pace. Having a defined plan will help your mind focus on factors you can control, which will ease anxiety.
Remind Yourself Why
When race nerves begin to shake your confidence, remind yourself why you started training for this race in the first place. Perhaps your goal was to lose weight, get faster, or have fun. Remind yourself that the outcome of the race does not change all that you have accomplished.
Having fun post-race plans, such as reservations at a trendy restaurant or a meet-up with friends, can help you better envision the whole picture and is a good reminder that there is more to the weekend than a big race. Having a fun event to look forward to after the race can also help you stay motivated to keep pushing when the race becomes tough.
In the week leading up to the race, practice visualizing your performance. Visualize yourself running comfortably, having fun, and embracing the tough moments. Think about how you will feel when you cross the finish the line, and what it will feel like to have met your goals. By thinking about success you will be less likely to dwell on negative possibilities.
Avoid comparing yourself to other runners. Your pace, body type, clothes, and abilities do not define you or make you a better or worse person than anyone else. All too often runners get hung up on those around them instead of appreciating the journey and their own accomplishments. At the end of the day, your race is all that matters!