Overcoming Pre-Race Jitters


Every runner experiences at least some degree of pre-race jitters in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to a big race. All of the time spent training comes down to one day, one race, which can be incredibly nerve racking. Occasionally, the nervous energy can be so overwhelming that runners will deliberately avoid having to race. How can a runner reduce the negative affects of pre-race jitters?

The first thing to understand is that some nervousness is a good thing. If a runner does not feel any pre-race jitters before a race it is probable that the runner does not care about he or she performs. The lack of any nervousness is a good hint that the runner has become disinterested in racing

Second, it is important to allow the nervousness you feel help to focus your mind on the race, but not let it overtake your confidence. There is a difference between these two thoughts:

“I hope am I able to keep my mind clear of negative thoughts and race to my ability. I have been training so well recently – remember that great workout last week?”

“I hope I don’t screw this up. I count two other competitors in my age group who will probably beat me. I had a terrible workout last week; hopefully I don’t feel like I did then.”

Both quotes are from nervous runners, however, they are totally different. The first quote is from a runner who is ignoring outside distractions and is focusing on positive thoughts. She knows that she can only control her own performance and is not going to waste time thinking about other runners.

The second quote is from a runner who is engaging in self-sabotage by focusing on negative thoughts and outside distractions. This runner has already hurt his race with this kind of thinking and is allowing his mind to betray the hard training that is body has performed.

The bottom line is that pre-race jitters and nervous thoughts are okay before a race and can help fuel your performance. However, if the nervous thoughts focus on the negative and outside distractions beyond the runners control, such thoughts are destructive to a runner’s race performance.


Racing with Confidence
Dealing with Running Failures