Whether you take your running seriously, or are recreationally involved, chances are you’ll experience some pre-race nerves if it’s an event that means something to you.
Self-doubt, questioning why you’re doing it, wanting it to be over, being scared of the pain, worrying something will go wrong, sick in the guts - All pretty stock-standard feelings. But these are balanced with positives of opportunity, excitement, satisfaction, achievement, success, fun - racing is fun!
I accept these feelings as normal now and attempt to think more about the positive ones. Pre-race and toeing the start-line, you can bet everyone is having similar feelings, and I mean everyone. No human is immune - I take some comfort in this.
The extra adrenaline is ultimately a performance booster. The shakes, the heartrate and nervous yawning (happens to me before every race) – all contribute to that fight/flight response, which makes us run faster AND feel less pain.
I’ll generally be pretty clumsy and useless all day leading up to a big race. I have bouts of “not being present” and being “off with the fairies” intermittently throughout the day. All perfectly normal and can be quite funny.
Strangely, most of my best performances have been when I’ve been feeling terrible on race day (heavy, tired, unmotivated). This is either a strange coincidence, or how you actually feel means very little to your body’s performance.
For this reason, no matter how I’m feeling (within reason), I go into a race with an open mind on what I’m capable of doing on the day.
If you’ve had some interrupted training, entertain the possibility that you may be fresher and potentially better for it.
If you’ve been smashing training consistently, be confident you are in great shape.
If you’re feeling tired, heavy, and yuck, remember your muscles don’t know this and it’s probably all in your head.
When the gun goes all the nerves seem to disappear, as your mind becomes occupied with the race. I’m just thinking “stay where I need to be with as little effort as possible”. “Where I need to be” is determined by position amongst competitors, or position against the clock if a specific time is desired, or both.
This is also the part where it becomes fun, and I remember why I love racing. The last part of a race will generally always hurt…but it’s the nearly the end, so who cares.