7 Ways to Deal With Marathon Anxiety

Ease Your Pre-Race Nerves

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When runners tell me that they're nervous for their upcoming marathon, I tell them, “That's completely normal!  I'd be concerned if you weren't nervous at all.” Running 26.2 miles is not something that you should take lightly. But there are ways to work through your pre-marathon nerves so that you're not a basket-case in the days leading up to your race.  Here are some suggestions:

1. Focus on what you can control.  There are plenty of variables that you can’t control, like the weather, and worrying about them will just drive you crazy. Pay attention to the things that you can control – pre-race sleep, nutrition, and hydration. Make a packing list and get to it. Getting everything in order will help ease your fears a lot. Waiting until the last minute to pack will increase your anxiety (and the likelihood that you'll forget something).

2. Maintain healthy habits.  During stressful times (such as the week before a marathon), it's easy to forget about taking care of yourself. But keeping up healthy habits such as proper sleep and good nutrition can be tough when you're dealing with stress. Your need plenty of rest and proper nutrition more than ever now. Do your best to be kind to your body and take extra precautions to prevent yourself from catching a pre-race cold.

3. Do yoga or another stress-relieving activity.  Yoga is a great way to relax your mind and body. If that doesn't work for you, do something else to get your mind off your race – watch a movie, read a book, or go for an easy hike.

4. Remind yourself about all your hard work.   It’s normal to start doubting your marathon readiness before the race. Think back to the months of training you’ve done (review training logs or journals if you have them) and remind yourself that you’ve worked hard and sacrificed a lot to be ready for the race.

5. Realize you're not alone.  Talk to training partners or others who have upcoming marathons.  No matter how much experience they have, chances are they’re feeling some race anxiety, too.  Bonding over your shared fears and doubts will help you relax and realize you’re in good company.

6. Plan out your race outfit.  Your marathon outfit should consist of your favorite, most comfortable running clothes that you’ve run in numerous times. Nothing new on race day! Sticking with what’s familiar to you will help ease your anxiety and help you avoid unexpected issues like chafing or wardrobe malfunctions. Make sure you have a couple of different outfits planned, in case it’s warmer or colder than expected.

7. Make a race plan.   Having a plan of attack for the marathon will help ease your fears. Even if it’s your first marathon and you don’t have a specific time goal, having a race plan will help you feel like you’re more in control.  Talk to a running coach or buddy with marathon experience about how you should approach the race. Try to get a rough estimate of your marathon finishing time so you’ll have a general idea of your marathon pace. Take a look at the race course and talk to other runners who have done the race so you know what to expect. Just make sure you don’t spend hours and hours overanalyzing and researching the course and your race approach.  It’s good to have information to feel more in control, but obsessing about it can lead to more anxiety.

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