As I prepare for another marathon this weekend, I can’t help but acknowledge the whirlwind of emotions that accompany it. Over time, I’ve realised that these feelings, though overwhelming at times, are part of the marathon experience. With race day approaching, I want to share some techniques to help manage those marathon nerves. So, whether you’re a first-time marathoner or a seasoned veteran, here are some tips to help you stay calm, confident, and well-prepared on race day.
Trust Your Taper
In the days leading up to the marathon, you’ll typically taper your training to allow your body to rest and recover. Trust this process. Some runners feel anxious about reduced mileage fearing they’ll lose fitness. However, tapering is essential to ensure you’re well-rested and ready to perform at your best on race day. Have faith in your training plan!
A surefire way to boost your marathon day confidence is by being prepared. Have a race day plan. Arrange your travel, look through the event guide at the course, and note the locations of water stations and loos. If you have friends and family joining you, coordinate where they will be cheering you on. Having a clear picture of what to expect can help alleviate any uncertainty.
Training is another essential aspect of preparation. Following a well-structured training plan to build your physical fitness and confidence. The more prepared you are physically, the more mentally relaxed you’ll be on race day.
Visualisation and mental rehearsal
Visualisation is a powerful tool to ease marathon nerves. Spend time mentally rehearsing the race, picturing yourself running confidently and crossing the finish line strong. Visualising success can boost your self-belief and reduce anxiety.
Create a mental checklist of positive affirmations you can repeat to yourself during the race. These affirmations can be simple phrases like “I am strong” or “I can do this.” When doubts creep in, or the pain cave hits, repeat these affirmations to regain focus and composure.
Deep, controlled breathing can help calm your nerves and reduce pre-race jitters. Practice deep breathing exercises regularly in the weeks leading up to the marathon. When you start to feel anxious on race day, take a moment to breathe deeply, inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four. This simple technique can help lower your heart rate and bring a sense of calm.
On race day, it’s essential to stay relaxed. Avoid the temptation to compare yourself to others or worry about your pace. Trust your training and focus on your own race. Tension in your body can sap your energy, so periodically check your posture and consciously release any tightness in your shoulders, neck, or jaw.
Familiarise yourself with race logistics
Marathon day logistics can add to pre-race nerves. To alleviate this stress, arrive at the race venue early and allow plenty of time to check baggage in, use the toilets (there will be long queues), and warm up. Wear clothing you feel comfortable in and that you’ve worn during your training to avoid any unexpected issues. Familiarise yourself with the start and finish areas so you don’t feel lost or rushed.
Chat with others
Marathons are social events, and chatting with fellow runners can help ease your nerves. Strike up conversations with other participants, especially those who have run marathons previously. Hearing their experiences and advice can be reassuring and remind you that you’re not alone in your feelings.
Marathon nerves are a natural part of the racing experience. Every runner, no matter how experienced, has faced nerves before a big race. Embrace the excitement, trust your preparation, and enjoy the journey of running a marathon. With the right mindset and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to a successful and satisfying race day.