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How to deal with nerves the day before a race

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

The day before a race is often a mix of nerves, anticipation and excitement, that can make the day feel like it goes on forever! This couldn’t be more timely, as I’m writing this on the eve of the Gold Coast Half Marathon. Here are my tips for race day eve.

Enjoy the atmosphere: Nerves and excitement often go hand in hand. Feeling a bit of excitement can help to balance out the nerves, so try to take in the buzz around the event. If you need to go to the expo, you will be around lots of others runners who are feeling similar things, which usually creates an exciting atmosphere. If the event has multiple distances over a few days, spectating or supporting your friends can help create excitement for your race.

Treat yourself: If you do go to the expo, treat yourself with a new piece of running gear, event shirt, or even a discounted entry on your next race (just don’t wear your new gear on race day!).

Go for a run: Sometimes I get funny looks when I say this, but I am a fan of doing a light run the day before a race, especially if you are used to running most days. I like to stick to routine as much as possible, and run on the same days I would in training. I keep it very light, aiming just to keep my legs moving so they are ready to go the next day. It’s also a good way to use some nervous energy! I like to do parkrun at a comfortable pace before a race on a Sunday.

Image of me running at Kirra parkrun
Pre-race parkrun at Kirra, Queensland

Kirra parkrun this morning

Do something relaxing/distract yourself: The last couple of years, we have gone to an AFL game the day before the Gold Coast half. It’s a good option because it’s not taxing energy wise, and distracts you from thinking about the race. Last year in Amsterdam, we went on a canal boat tour. Watching a movie is another good option. This year, the AFL schedule didn’t work out, but I managed to take my mind off tomorrow by doing a few bits and pieces for my coaching clients, and writing this blog post!

Get your gear ready: Whether or not you like to lay it out flat and take a pic for Instagram, get all your stuff ready to go the day before. You don’t want to do it when you wake up, and having it ready adds to feeling of being prepared for the race.

Have dinner early: You might have an early start on race day, and might find it hard to fall asleep. Making an early dinner booking means you will be able to get back and relax, even if you don’t go to bed straight away. If you are at a big city events, restaurants can be busy and service can be slow, which might make your anxiety levels rise. It’s always better to be earlier than late!

Have a nap: If you can take a bit of time to have a nap, do it! You might be a bit short on sleep the night before the race, so a short afternoon nap could be a good idea. It also takes a bit of time out of the day that you might otherwise think about the race!

Check the results: This only applies to multi-day events, but what better way to take your mind off your race than checking out other peoples?! I managed to kill a good hour or so this morning looking up what everyone did in the Gold Coast Saturday races. The added bonus of so many great results was being really inspired for mine tomorrow!

Remember previous races: Think about times in the past where you have enjoyed a race or done really well, or both! Carry those feelings into each of your races so you start with a positive mindset.

Trust in your training: I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said this over the last few months, but I really believe that all you can do to prepare for a race is get yourself to the start line feeling confident that you have trained to the best of your ability. Sometimes things happen that we can’t control, but if you line up without any doubts about your preparation, you have put yourself in the best possible position you can to achieve your goals.

That doesn’t mean dismiss the nerves, as nerves help us identify things that are important. But think about all the freezing mornings you have trained through, and all the times you went out in the rain. Remember all the hard work you have put in, and believe in your ability to get it done!

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