Banish Race Day Anxiety Once and for All

AnxietyMy hair stands a bit on end as I push out a few last striders through the crisp morning air.

I’ve done this same warmup before every race since I first started running. My muscles welcome the ritual, and they move through it with surprising ease even at this early hour.

Someone takes the microphone. It’s time for the runners to enter the corrals. I shake out briefly, then make my way toward my pace group.

The corrals are packed. I had no idea there would be so many runners.

There’s a palpable anxiety in the crowd, everyone waiting for the race to start. The tension rises to a crescendo. The crowd suddenly falls silent. Then…


The gun goes off and we’re out of the gate.

I pass the first mile marker without so much as a passing thought. Everything seems to be going perfectly until…

Wait! Did that sign just say You’re almost there! Only 25.2 to go? I thought I signed up for a 5k. I haven’t trained for a marathon!

I try to turn back, but there are too many people behind me. They keep pushing me forward.

I’m exhausted. Why won’t they stop pushing me? I try to maintain my form, but I stumble and fall. It seems certain that I’ll be trampled to death.

The Anxiety of the Long Distance Runner

That’s where I always wake up.

I’ve had the same nightmare before every race for as long as I’ve been a runner. But, these dreams aren’t exclusive to runners.

Before I ran, it was a test I had forgotten to study for or a play for which I hadn’t memorized my lines.

Dreams of being unprepared are part of our collective unconscious, experiences so common even across cultures that they can only be said to be part of some basic human instinct. And, when it comes to these types of dreams, the message is clear.

We doubt our own adequacy.

Most runners feel that way before a big race.

We wonder if we trained hard enough. We feel as though we could’ve done more, that we should’ve done more. We’re worried that in spite of our preparation and training, we’ll still fail.

I know because I’m right there with you.

I’m still very much in the preseason. My training for October’s Amica Marathon won’t start in earnest until mid-June. But I’m already having the nightmare again.

“What if”, we think to ourselves, “Luck isn’t on my side.”

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

Lucky CloverLuck is nothing more than a phantasm conjured by cowards to justify inaction.

You’re not a coward are you?

Of course you’re not!

You are the arbiter of your own success, so start acting like it.

Through the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter, you put in the miles.

Even when you thought you might fall over, you ran that extra lap.

You followed your training plan. You listened to your coach. Now it’s time to tell the coward in your head to shut up.

“You may be scared,” you’ll say, “but I’m prepared for this, and I won’t have anyone along who doesn’t believe in me.”

Stop couching your success or failure on the notion of luck, and start learning to trust your training.

Are you ready to kick your fear to the curb? What do you tell your inner coward when he rears his ugly head? Help us learn from your experience and leave a comment.

P.S. Running Recipes Winner!

[Running Recipes: Chia-Powered Sole Food]While we’re on the subject of luck, I announced last week that one lucky reader would be selected to win a copy of the upcoming chia cookbook.

You all left amazing comments, and I appreciate you sharing your biggest diet struggles. That said, the gods of luck are cruel, and there can be only one winner.

That winner, selected at random from all the entries, is…

Lydia Shell, who wrote:

My biggest struggle with training is consuming enough food to sustain my training.

Well, Lydia, while I can’t help with the quantity, I can certainly help with the variety. I’ll be contacting you shortly with the details on how to get your free copy of the Running Recipes cookbook.

Congratulations to Lydia, and thank you all again for entering.


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