Training You Ask, JP Answers

You Ask, JP Answers


Dear JP:

No matter how good my training has been and how well prepared I feel, I can’t seem to shake those race day nerves.  Any suggestions on how I can keep calm on race morning?




Dear Sylvie:

Race day nerves remind me I am alive. But they also remind me that what I am doing is somewhat terrifying. No matter how many races I have run, those nerves compose the soundtrack that accompanies me to the start line.  Learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable is what living on the edge of your comfort zone is all about. Here’s a little checklist of what I go through in the 48 hours leading up to a race, and whenever I do these things, those race day nerves seem to vibrate a little less:

  • 48 hours before: I begin to obsess over the weather forecast. I check it every hour or so. Yes, I know it’s irrational, but it seems to help me feel I have a little ‘control’ over what I’ll be wearing on race day, and more importantly, what I’ll need to keep warm in the pre-race staging area.
  • At 36 hours: I do a recon of the course and especially of the finishing area. It’s good to know exactly where family and friends are going to meet you after the race – It’s one less thing to obsess over.
  • 24 hours before: I go out for a light 5k run, and if possible, try to cover a section of the course. I find this helps get that restless feeling out of my legs; it is also a great opportunity to make certain your shoes are all set for race day.
  • Breakfast the day before the marathon, I like to get a good hit of protein now so that my body has plenty of time to process it before the race. Bacon and eggs works great for me.
  • 20 hours before the race. I lay out my clothes for the morning, and to ensure I have everything ready for race day. Trust me, if you do it now, you’ll sleep better because you won’t be doing a mental inventory as you are lying in bed!
  • 16 hours before the race: I always go to an afternoon movie. This forces me to stay off my feet, and it is a fantastic way to distract my brain and quiet my nerves.
  • Dinner the night before the race: Avoid the massive pasta or carb overload! Eat a smallish meal, and eat it early so that your system can process it before you leave your house or hotel on race morning. Avoid the porta potty lineups!
  • Before I get into bed I set 2 alarm clocks, and alarm on my phone, and if I’m in a hotel, I arrange for a wake-up call. Yes, it’s a little nutty, but trust me again. You’ll sleep way better!
  • I wake up 2 hours before I need to leave the house in the morning so that I can have a light breakfast and sit for a good 45 minutes. This helps relax the nerves and precipitates the ‘evacuation’ process. I like to read the latest edition of my favorite running magazine to help get me psyched up for the race.
  • And finally. Get to the race in lots of time. Find someone who won’t stress you out and hang with him/her until you need to make your way to the corrals.
  • 10 minutes before the race begins. Now, you can let those nerves carry you forward on your epic adventure.

Send your advice and questions to JP