As I developed a passion for running races and the sense of achievement that goes along with it, I found that I was putting more pressure on myself to improve, which lead to me becoming increasingly stressed before each race. This continued to the point where the question started to arise, “why do you do this if it makes you so stressed?”. But most of us runners love to race, we love to push ourselves – sometimes this can be hard for us with busy lives, work, kids or simmering anxiety. So, these past few years, I’ve had to figure out techniques to get myself to the start line while still maintaining my composure.
Bear in mind a little nervous tension and excitement is a good thing, and can contribute to your performance in a race. But don’t let it get out of control, take it from me. Here are four tips to help you get to the start line stress free;
1. Use Visualisation and Cues - In the week leading up to the race start to visualise yourself on race morning getting ready, getting to the event site and starting to run. Practice relaxation cues – there are a variety of techniques out there, for example focusing on your breathing, imagining yourself in a bubble of calm, or a favourite place, or even just smiling to yourself. Use these cues leading up to the race, on race morning and at the start line.
2. Be super organised – Prevention is the best cure. Get yourself as organised as you need to be to prevent panic and worry on race morning. Make lists. Ensure your family know what they are doing and that children feel secure with the race day plans. Other things that work for me are knowing the course (I have been known to hire a bike and ride the course the day before), placing clothes and food out ready, making sure you know how long it takes to get to the start and giving yourself enough time to face the toilet cues!
3. Attract the positive – What you think can make or break you on race morning so keep it positive. Listening to music (calm or otherwise!) can really work for some people to quiet their mind. Have some positive mantras written in prominent places and you can always get some Running friends send you motivating messages!
4. Put it in Perspective - Keep in mind that you can only run the race that you can run, on that day. There is no changing it, especially not the day before, or even the week before. By far one of the best bits of advice I’ve received is to remember that “it’s just running”, it is your hobby and something you love to do. Keep your perspective and that will help to keep you calm.
Obviously this is not a definitive list, there are many ways to get to the start line with a calm and positive attitude, but some of these simple ideas might help if you feel the heat before a race. Your job as an runner is to get to know what works for you, and to prioritise yourself a little, in the week leading up to a race, to make sure you make the most of your race experience.
Do you have any other tips? Feel free to add them in the comments, we would love to hear what works for you…