7 Ways to Overcome Pre-Race Anxiety

I don’t know anyone who runs but doesn’t get pre-race anxiety. There’s always the chance that you’re going to have a bad run. It might be a pain you’ve never felt, unforeseen bad weather, a mental block, or just one of those days when your body doesn’t want to run. Pre-race anxiety can put you on edge for days leading up to the run, or make it hard to sleep the night before, further tanking the possibility of a good morning with fresh legs and a clear head.

Overcoming pre-race anxiety is different for everyone. You may be worried about all of these things, or just one. The best thing that you can do is go through the steps needed to quell your anxiety, relax, get your rest, and get ready for a great race. If you need help, here are some things to try!

Train. Okay, I’m kind of being facetious, but not really. The best way to be ready for a race is to train for it. Sure, there are times when something comes up and you have to change your training plan. Life happens and you have to flex or take some time off. As long as you don’t take too long of a break from running, you should be able to pick back up with your training and still have a good race. The point is that the better you train, the more completely you cross-train and strength train and have a comprehensive plan, the better you’ll be prepared for your race. Knowing that you’re totally ready will reduce the anxiety.

Plan your morning. There’s nothing more stress-inducing than running around your house on race day, trying to find something you need, or sitting in your car while frantically looking for a parking spot near the starting line. Before my first marathon, I was staying out of town and completely forgot to bring my usual breakfast. How could I forget breakfast!? Luckily, my friend has the same pre-race breakfast routine as me, but I should have had that planned out. If you know that everything is set for you as soon as you wake up, you’ll have a more restful evening the night before, and get better sleep.

Get your gear together. Part of planning your morning should be gathering all of your gear. It’s a ritual to take a picture of my outfit and everything I’ll have on me for race day and to post the picture to Facebook. That’s my chance to make sure I have everything together. If I want to put lip balm in my fuel belt, I do it the night before. I have the top, bottom, socks, shoes, and then a bag for bag check with a hoodie, a snack, water, and anything else I’ll need. Don’t forget the really important things like your race bib (I’ve heard horror stories about forgetting this!), wallet, and keys.

Be prepared for any weather. One thing that can cause anxiety is the possibility of bad weather. This is why I encourage people to run in inclement weather. Some days, you just plain don’t want to run if it is raining or snowing because, let’s face it, a wet run can quickly turn into a miserable run. It is important to know that, no matter the weather, you’re not going to melt. If you have gone running in less-than-perfect conditions, it’s not something totally terrifying for race day. You will be less worried about it and know that you’ll make it to the finish line, even if you need extra layers, or if you’re not dry at the end.

Practice with the gear you need. I had to pick up a rain jacket a few days before my first marathon. I wasn’t prepared for running in the rain because I usually avoided it in training, or I would only do short runs and then come home to my nice, dry house. It worried me that I had never trained with my new jacket, but I wanted something to help me stay dry, so I ran with it anyway. It worked wonders and I was glad I picked it up, but now I know that I need to train with all of my gear at one point or another to make sure I can go the distance comfortably. That way, there will be no question and no anxiety about it in the future.

Don’t do anything new. I have a good friend who is an experienced runner, but we planned to run a race together once and she did so many new things the night before and morning of the race. She had a terrible race. Not every time you do something new is it going to tank your run, but you have the best chance of having a good run if you stick to your routine. The routine and knowing what to expect will definitely help you have less anxiety. Don’t stay out late the night before, eat fatty food, and get up the morning of the race with the help of a new coffee drink that you’ve never tried before. Do not.

Go for a run. Depending on the length of your race, you may only be allowed to run for a mile or two, but get out without a watch and without a plan and just take a few minutes to de-stress. Think about why you run, and how good it feels to cross the finish line. Be confident that you’re going to have fun, and you’re going to finish, no matter what else happens.

Finally, just don’t worry. That’s it. Worrying is not going to help you run any better, right? No one ever says, “I wish I had worried more.” So knock it off. Take a deep breath, maybe do a couple stretches, have some pasta, and relax.

It’s normal to be anxious before a race, especially if it is a new distance, or if you’re pushing for a PR. Take some deep breaths, go through your morning routine, get set up for when you wake up, and then relax. Trust in the training that you did, and know that you can do it!

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