Tips for Tackling Race Day Nerves
It’s race morning. The training is finished, the long runs are done, and aside from getting to the start line, you’ve officially completed every task leading up to the big day. But wait! What about those race day nerves?
Races can be SCARY especially when you have goals attached to them or you’ve put a lot of energy into training, but they don’t need to be!
I spent the better part of the week leading up to my last goal race in a fit of nerves. I felt anxious constantly and drove my husband insane. “Why do you even do this if you’re not having any fun?” he asked. To make matters worse, I was so anxious the night before that I barely slept a wink and was convinced that I had already ruined my race on the bus to the start line.
Thankfully, my race came together on the day, but the nerves made me very uncomfortable and certainly weren’t doing my race preparation any favors. I vowed to never let myself get that nervous before a race again and sought out ways to dampen my fears.
Related: 4 Ways to Relax Before a Marathon
So What if I’m Nervous?
A little bit of nervous energy can be great for a race – it can leave you feeling motivated, energized, and ready to tackle the obstacle in front of you. But they can also be detrimental to your race plan, like in my case of not getting any sleep the night before. Race day nerves could also cause you go out too fast, throw out your race plan, make critical errors in pacing or fueling, or make you have to pee 8 times before the start* It’s better to avoid another layer of stress to your day and get your race nerves under control!
*Actual amount of times I have needed to pee before a race start
Tips for Tackling Race Day Nerves
My race day nerve strategy has not been the strongest in the past, so I polled friends, teammates, and other runners in an effort to find the best nerve-busting tips for race day. Below are my favorite new strategies to calm race day nerves; good luck!
You don’t need to be a yogi to incorporate simple meditation exercises into your race morning routine! Meditation has been proven to calm nerves, lower heart rate, and improve your mental clarity, so it’s only natural that a few minutes of meditation could lower race day anxiety and improve performance, too.
A simple way to incorporate meditation into your race day routine is with the Headspace mobile app (psst…try their Basics Pack for free here!) Headspace provides short guided meditations that are easy to use anytime and anywhere, like in the grassy field next to the start area or in the porta potty line!
Listen to Music
Another simple way to get yourself out of your own head is to listen to music. A few teammates suggested classical piano (I am currently obsessed with Ryo Fukiu and Ludovico Einaudi, find them on Spotify!) but virtually any calming or uplifting tunes will do the trick. Music can help get you focused, motivated, & pumped up for the race.
Listening to music will also allow you to tune out all the race day chaos – antsy runners, race day small talk, shouting volunteers, idling shuttle buses, etc. and will help you stay focused on the task at hand: running your own race!
I’ve used my share of mantras in the past (and even wrote about it here) but never at the start of a race. Mantras can be a powerful way to stay focused, present, and prepared, so it makes sense that they would help calm race day nerves, too. Try one of the following mantras on race day:
- It’s Just Another Long Run
- I Will _______ (enter goal here: win, run X time, thank volunteers, enjoy the experience)
- Surprise Yourself
- And my personal favorite, Yes, I can!
Related: Benefits of Using a Personal Mantra
Sometimes race day nerves are all about how they are framed. Instead of fearing race anxiety, try to embrace it and use to your advantage. A teammate suggested tackling race day jitters by acknowledging your nerves. “It’s a sign you care, not a sign of weakness,” she wrote. Another teammate chimed in, “reframe your nerves as excitement!” And if nothing else, it’s helpful to surround yourself with supportive people, am I right?
Acknowledging and reframing nerves and fears about the race are a great reminder that we’re all human. Everyone gets nervous before a big race and it’s perfectly O.K. Use those nerves to fuel the fire!
Related: Why Every Runner Needs a Cheerleader
When all else fails, remind yourself to have fun! Smile on the start line, make jokes and laugh with friends, appreciate your body for the distance it’s about to run, and ease the stress you’ve put upon yourself. It’s just a race after all, and if you’re not having any fun maybe it’s time to reevaluate your goals.
Your Tips for Race Day Nerves
How do you tackle race day nerves? Share in the comments below!