With less than a week till the Boston Marathon, there’s bound to be a lot of nervous runners out there. If you happen to be one of them (or if you suffer from pre-race anxiety in general), then keep reading.
What Is Pre-Race Anxiety?
Pre-race anxiety is certainly not uncommon, but the degree to which it influences a runner’s thoughts and performance vary from person to person. Some runners can channel their nervous energy in a positive direction and use it to their advantage, while others allow it to cause a considerable amount of undue stress.
This year, at the Boston Marathon, runners are going to have to contend with not only the usual feelings of anxiety, but also anxiety generated from the threat of another terrorist attack. As much as we would all like to think that such a threat doesn’t exist, the possibility will nonetheless cast doubts and fear in the minds of many.
What runners need to understand is that anxiety, or stress, if elevated to greater-than-normal levels, can result in a variety of negative reactions, some of which include: impaired judgment, feelings of being overwhelmed, and a consequent decline in confidence, as well as physical symptoms such as nausea and dizziness, tight muscles, and aches and pains.
Since the onset of pre-race anxiety tends to start a day or two before races, it’s important that runners try to develop some type of de-stress routine. This is not easy, but it’s worth attempting.
Even the Professionals Experience Anxiety
I’ve experienced enough bouts of severe anxiety that learning how to control my nerves is now a priority. In past races where my nerves have gotten the better of me, I’ve struggled to control my breathing and have even experienced uncontrollable shaking.
Elite runners are not exempt from experiencing pre-race anxiety either. In fact, it’s likely that they’re more prone to it. In a recent interview I had the opportunity to participate in, I was able to talk briefly with semi-retired professional runner, Hal Higdon, and hear his take on nervous runners:
Being a competitive runner, I’ve never gone to a starting line without being extremely nervous about it, worried about my ability to perform. I remember standing on the starting line at the World Masters Championships in Toronto in 1975, seconds before the gun was going off, and I was sure I was not going to be able to move … I had this vision that the gun would go off and there would be ten or fifteen other runners taking off and I would be standing there paralyzed.
Hal went on to say that nervousness is “frankly” quite normal among competitive runners, and while this year’s Boston Marathon will be a little more worrisome for some, he encouraged nervous runners to take advantage of the large crowd support.
How to De-Stress Before the Race
In addition to finding comfort in numbers, here are a few other tips to help you control your nerves:
A final tip: one coach I know likes to remind his runners that races are just like “days at the office.” There is nothing to fear if you remember that you’ll simply be doing what you typically do on an almost-daily basis.
Have you experienced pre-race anxiety? What helps you relieve the stress? Post your thoughts and experiences to the comments below.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.