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How to deal with anxiety before a running competition

·5 mins
race health

You’ve signed up for a running competition, and trained for it for months, and here we are, a few days before the race. The pre-race anxiety is ramping up. Today, I’ll share how to best manage it with my own few tips.

Hourly Planning #

Part of the stress can come from the lack of preparation around the event. Of course, you have trained, but do you know where you will pick up your BIB number? what days is the bag drop off? how many gels do you need? What time in advance should you be at the start line?

All of those questions can make it uncomfortable and can take your energy away before the race.

In this case, the best way is to prepare every detail like a retro planning of your race day. You can write an hourly plan for the morning of the race or even include the few days before it.

Preparation also means reading the running handbook or any details that the organizers have shared with you. It can help get critical information like public access (I once got stuck due to roadblocks), the available public transport on the day, the frequency of the water points, and so on.

Being familiar with those details will help reduce all the questions in your mind, so you can focus on the race on D-day.

Daily Routine #

The perfect race should be run on autopilot. This is achievable by sticking to the routine you have put in place over the weeks of training.

It means that your gear, your shoes, or your breakfast should be as close as possible to what you have been training with. The race day is not the day you should try a different pair of shorts or a different gel.

Ideally, the few days or weeks before the race should look exactly the same, with consistent nutrition, hydration, and rest time.

This can be challenging if you travel for your race. Let’s not focus on what you cannot control, but on the items you can, like your bedtime or the last 4 meals before your race.

Mental Preparation #

Often overlooked, mental preparation helps you visualize your goals achieved before accomplishing them.

In part of this effort, I tend to break down the distance into many small bits that are easier to visualize.

For instance, I divide marathons by segments of 4km and 3km. The first 24km are segments of 4km. When running them, I only focus on those 4km at a time, I don’t think yet of the many more to come.

After 24km, I break them down into segments of 3km until the end. This looks random, but as the fatigue builds up, my focus tends to drift away easily, so a smaller segment helps bring my focus back into the race.

A few days before, I picture each segment, looking at the race map and counting all the segments, what would be the sightseeing and buildings around me, how I should feel then, etc.

Positive Affirmation #

The last week before your running competition is often the Tapering phase, where we reduce the load in preparation for it.

As the volume goes down, your sentiment of un-preparedness is high: “Shouldn’t we add one more hard training before the race?” you may ask.

The answer is no.

Tapering is for recovery. If you over-train in this phase, you might have a low energy level for the race.

Instead, you should tackle the negative feeling with a positive one and look back at all you have accomplished to get there.

In my case, four days before the Tokyo Marathon 2024, I have:

  • Ran 730 km throughout 20 weeks of training
  • Went to the gym three times per week on average over the past 16 weeks

I have never trained for such a long period, or that frequently, for any other race competition. However, I still struggle to shake off that feeling.

But looking back made me realize that I pushed further and overcame a lot to get there, so the race itself shouldn’t be too different.

Shakeout and Breathing #

My last tip is to shake it out. A few days before your running race, you should do one short and easy run to remove any tension.

Lucky you, there are always shakeout runs around big races. Look out for Instagram race hashtags and get involved in the local running community to find one. You’ll be able to meet great people but also get a chance to loosen up your muscles before the race.

Adding to it a few breathing exercises will help bridge the gap too. There are many online that will take only a few minutes to center on yourself, relax, and feel better in no time.

There is no secret for a perfect race but I hope this list of advice will help you get closer to it. Keep in mind that you’ve signed up to have fun or push yourself, you did the work and you are ready for it.

Have a great race ahead πŸƒβ€β™€οΈπŸƒβ€β™‚οΈ