Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reflections On Race Anxiety

In this month's Running Times there an article by Pete Magill titled, "Jettison Your Pre-Race Jitters". (You can find a very similar article on his blog).

I like Pete Magill. He has plenty of credentials (he's the top ranked 5K runner in the world for his age and he led his running clubs - Team Runners High and Fluffy Bunny - to 10 National Masters Team Championships), but more importantly he is a virtual fount of wisdom, and is always ready to share his many insights.*

In this article, Pete talks about how race jitters can undermine your performance and how they're especially destructive because we don't always recognize them, even when we're shaking in our shoes. He lists 10 signs of race jitters and then goes on to provide some pretty decent advice for coping with them. Here are his 10 Signs:


1. Spontaneous Injury Generation - As race day approaches, you're suddenly overwhelmed with aches and pains.

2. Second Guessing Syndrome - It's the week of your race, and the realization hits: Everuything I've done to prepare for this race is wrong!

3. Leaving Your Race In Your Workout - The race is almost upon us, and we doubt our fitness. The answer seems clear: Run a time trial or all-out interval session to test our conditioning.

4. Training Through A Race - Anxious runners try to lessen their anxiety by treating a race like just another workout.

5. Waiting Until Peak Condition - Some of us postpone racing until we can reach that promised land known as "peak condition".

6. Better Racing Through Food - Since the advent of carbo loading, runners have sought better racing through diet. We fall victim to trying new diets or over carbo-loading. It's a race, not a meal.

7. Routine Changes - Panick-stricken runners sometimes change their routine in advance of races. They skip work. Dodge ordinary chores. Sleep more. Avoid stairs. Do extra stretching.

8. Warming Up To Failure - You're jogging the first mile of your warm up, and suddenly you see a spot dead wringer for Haile Gebrselassie doing a mini-interval session for his warm up. On the spot, you decide to copy what he's doing.

9. The Fast Start - I know, I know. It's so tempting to go out hard the first 400 meters of a race. But nothing can be more destructive to your race than an overexuberant start.

10. Overthinking The Race - Runners can become so blinded by pace calculations, weather reports, course concerns, shoe decisions, Gu purchases, and competitors that they fail to see that a race is not unique among runs.

So instead of giving you Pete's dead-on advice for coping with these demons, why don't you leave a comment with your advice for one or two of these? Better yet, tell us your personal story of disaster and how you overcame the anxiety demons to achieve sweet victory!

* Truth be told, I would like him simply for naming his running club Fluffy Bunny.


  1. I can really relate to all the jitters symptoms. I try to use it to my advantage - nothing like barfing on the runner next to you to get a head start!

  2. Great concept to explore. With the perspective that we are using competition to find our best self, these concerns are irradicated. Run Within Warrior runners!

  3. I always have pre-race anxiety but I think it's kinda respecting the race it so deserves! I loved reading that list, some things I never thought about. Have a great Tuesday! :)

  4. I still get butterflies in my stomach before every race and they don't go away until after a few minutes of running! Great list full of things a few things that I can really relate to:) Ha ha, I just read Steve Q's comment:) Have a good one!!

  5. Oh dear, so many wonderful things to look forward to on race day...

    Come for a visit, you've been tagged :)

  6. I always have 2 beers the night before a race. Always. Even if it's a 1 Mile Burrito Race. I wish I were kidding.

  7. Ok, finally getting caught up on some new blogs!! Sorry about that, I’ll be better I promise.

    Race jitters huh? OH yeah, I’ve got that all over. How come there wasn’t one on there about random rashes? I’ve got that one too – BAD.

    Wow, Saturday school is pretty hard core. Hopefully that is something that doesn’t last a horribly long time.

    BTW – your 5 new words below kinda hurt my head to try to sound out.

  8. I always have the jitters before a race (or any other sporting event). I actually find it very helpful. I find that the more nervous I am the better I end up running. You just got to channel that energy in a positive way