Whether you’re preparing for your first race or your 100th, feeling nervous on race day is quite normal. Some of us are more prone to nerves than others, feeling that familiar flutter of butterflies before a parkrun, or even a training run.
Race-day has so many elements to think about. Not only is it the culmination of months of training. There are the added logistics of travelling, bag storage, number collection, remembering to pack everything and frantically watching a weather app to predict what conditions might be like. It’s okay to feel nervous, but it also helps if you can manage some of the worry too. Here are some strategies you can use to combat race day nerves.
The more you know, the less there is to worry about. Most races will have a course map you can look at in advance. This may also include the elevation profile, so you can mentally prepare for the ups and downs. Not everyone likes to know the route in advance, but if the unknown makes you uneasy, studying the course can really help.
You could also browse the race photos from previous years to see the route. When you know what to expect, you can make a race plan. If the first half is all uphill and the second half easier, build that into your race plan. If you go out too hard on the toughest part of the course, you won’t be able to make the most of it when you reach the easier sections.
You can also choose landmarks on the route to spot on race day, so you can break the race down into sections. The same goes for getting everything ready for your big day. Lay out your kit, pack your bags and double-check your travel plans the day before. Make sure you have your race number or any registration details you need to pick it up on the day.
Remember you’re ready!
Maranoia can kick in big time when you’re tapering and on the start line. You will worry you haven’t done enough, that you’re undertrained. Take the time to look back at what you have achieved. Seeing the difference from the first run all those months ago to your best run in peak training can help to calm the nerves. It proves you have put the time and effort in. You need to put some faith in your training.
Follow your routine
Routine really helps combat those nerves. A race isn’t your usual Sunday morning affair, but running is. You’ve done the long runs and you’re ready; this is a just a shift of location. Keep your morning routine as normal as possible. Get ready for your run as you always would, eat the same breakfast and try to relax. Do another run through of your kit and get dressed. Follow your race-day plan and get to the start with plenty of time. Use the facilities, drop your bag off and go through your usual warmup routine if you have one. Some runners like to have headphones for the start area, even if they don’t wear them for the race, so they can switch off from what’s happening around them while waiting to go into the start pens.
Run at your pace
The combination of nerves and uncertainly can see us starting the race too fast, keen to get going. It’s easy to get swept up in the crowds, particularly in a big race. However, this will only mean you’ll exhaust yourself later on and you need to play the long game. Fall into your own pace from the very beginning and ignore anyone around you. It definitely helps if you put yourself in the right start pen at the beginning for your intended pace, as this will stop too many people from trying to push past you in earnest. Just focus on your own race plan and stick to what you’ve practised.
Follow these tips and hopefully you will feel a little more in control on race day. If you have any top tips for combating nerves, let us know on our social media channels.
Feature image is © Dorsetbays Photography