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:
SIGNS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE RACE JITTERS...
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.