Pre-Race Nerves

With the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon soon approaching, My thoughts go back to this time last year when I was mentally preparing for my first full marathon.

The training volume was far more than I’d ever experienced before or since as marathon training is almost a full-time job in itself. I recall finishing the Oasis 10k zoo run in the morning then needing to tack on an extra 22k in the afternoon to complete my long run and remembering how much of that day was spent in running shoes and also spent sleeping on the couch. I remember the doubts that clouded my thoughts, that I wouldn’t be capable of running that added 10k on race day, that I didn’t train enough, that somehow I wasn’t meant to cross that finish line for whatever non-logical reason. My mind managed to find every negative angle it could to try and push me away from making it to that starting line.

I assured myself in the end that my training would come through, that my months of training would pay off. When the day came, my preparations were enough. I felt great throughout and never worried that I would crash and burn.

I think it’s natural to have doubts when you’re about to pursue something you’ve never achieved. But if you put in the time and effort you should be more than ready to take on the challenge.

If you’re approaching your first half marathon, know that your nervousness and doubts are completely normal. If you’re approaching your 5th, I still would consider those feelings to be standard. There’s something about an impending race that triggers this response. You’ve run countless miles for months leading up to it and yet your mind wants to convince you that you could have done more, that you slacked off too much.

I believe that we have this response partly because it’s easier to back out of something than it is to go for something, and also partly because we’re afraid of the unknown. Afraid that maybe you’ll suffer an injury mid-race, or that you’ll have GI issues. Maybe you’re afraid you simply won’t have it in you to finish.

If you have the determination to start, you’ve taken away the only barrier you have full control over. No one can predict what, if any issues you may encounter while on the run. You simply have to start and assume everything will go ahead as usual.

The only way to calm those nerves and to quell your fears of bad things happening is preparation.

aspiringinstagram-34A few tips to handle pre-race nerves from my experience:

  • Injuries mid-race are rare. If you’ve trained regularly heading into the race, your muscles should be ready for it.
  • GI issues are much less rare. To lessen the potential for those bathroom breaks, do not alter any of your eating and drinking habits leading up to (and during) the race. It’s also important to hit a bathroom before you start the race.
  • When it comes to typical nerves I find it helps me to listen to music and get lost in a song I love. If you’re endlessly worrying about every bad possibility, you’re your own worst enemy. When you can distance yourself from all that, you’re in good shape.


An aspirational runner who has been at it since 2013. Eric started this site to help those like him find the information they need to get started.

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