There are very few of us, whether seasoned or amateur, who have not faced a bad case of nerves before a marathon or any competitive running event. No matter how much training has been put in, pre-race jitters are not just avoidable but also largely normal. In fact, they may even prove beneficial for your performance by keeping you on your toes and allowing you to focus on your goals. However, if your pre-race anxiety leads to sleepless nights and binge-eating on the days leading up to the race, chances are you’ll be at the start line feeling nervous and demoralized. Here are some tips to avoid turning into a basket case and make full use of your training on race day.
1. Focus on what you know: Your mind’s probably telling you that there are a hundred things that could go wrong at the race, but there is also a lot that you can research beforehand and prepare for. For example, if the race is in your city, spend the week or weeks leading up doing short training runs on the stipulated course to familiarize yourself with the nooks and turns. Study all the race information provided on the official website and contact officials to clear any doubts you may have regarding aid stations, medical assistance, etc. Not only will this soothe your apprehensions but also be a ready distraction from the jitters.
2. Be gear ready: Runners know that obsessing over the minute details of their running outfit is not a frivolity; good gear helps optimize your performance during any run. Test out your race day shoes and other accessories well in advance for fitting and comfort, but don’t wear them out by training in them too much. Study expected weather conditions and arrange any additional gear that you may need, including hydration packs, nutrition supplies, GPS devices for long ultras, and other necessary add-ons. Make a list if that helps, as the last minute rush often adds chances of missing something out.
3. Maintain a routine: This refers not just to your training runs, but also your general lifestyle. Pre-race anxiety can often lead to lack of sleep and untimely snacking, so it’s best to get your body used to a set routine of meal and bedtimes. Stick to a tested nutrition strategy and don’t try anything new before the race. Make sure you’re hydrated during your training and have given your body plenty of chance to recover before you run.
4. De-stress your nerves: Several runners turn to yoga as a great stress reliever on the day leading up to the race – it helps relax your mind as well as works on your overall flexibility. But if yoga is not your thing, pick any activity that you enjoy and which doesn’t stress your running muscles too much. You could try swimming, light aerobics, hiking, or even a relaxing massage – whatever takes your mind off the race.
5. Set realistic goals: One of the first rules of racing is to train for the event you’re participating in. Be aware of what your capabilities but don’t expect to miraculously finish a 10K race if you’ve been training 5K all the while. Set a desired race pace that you’ve consistently followed during training and focus on achieving that on the actual day. Above all, think back to the months of training and remind yourself that you’ve worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be ready for the race. Now it’s time to get out there and have a great run!