Sunday, February 23, 2014

Do You Get Nervous Before Races?

Waiting, NERVOUSLY, minutes before the 2011 Fargo Martahon
A couple of weeks ago someone asked me, "Do you still get nervous before a marathon?"  Hmm, well I had to think about that for a minute.  After 27 of 'em, an ultra, and countless shorter races over the years, you'd think I'd say, "Me, no way!"  But if I were 100% honest, the answer would be "Absolutely!!!".

As long as I've put in a reasonable amount of training for the particular race, the logical and most likely conclusion when evaluating an impending 26.2 is that I'll have no trouble completing it.  And sitting here a week before the 2014 Little Rock Marathon, I really can't imagine a scenario where I would DNF.  That said, I'm still nervous as heck.  And I can't help but wonder why.

Part of my anxiety is because I measure so much of my personal performance by finishing time.  I know some don't ... but I do.  I usually have a clock goal set for each race.  Sometimes it's fast, sometimes it's slower.  But regardless of the specific target for the race, the nerves build as I wonder if I can keep this prescribed pace over the entire distance.  In fact, regarding time, that's simply what it comes down to.  Not really whether or not I'll finish, but can I hold it for the full 26.2.  For instance in this race, I really want to be around 7:30 for most of the latter miles.  I have no doubt I can carry the pace for 20, but the remaining 6.2 is where the concern really comes in.

But besides the typical clock challenge, I think the other reason nerves build is because it's my body's natural way of saying, "Oh no, here we go again ... this is gonna hurt!"  In almost marathon I've lined up for, the first 90 minutes feels great!  The people are cheering, the bands are playing, and the energy from the race day adrenaline carries me like a breeze.  But after that ... it sucks!  It's a grind, and sometimes an all out Pain-fest.  And if I went out too fast, like I've done plenty of times, those last miles feel like a certain excruciating death has consumed the lower half of your body.  So the nerves are probably just my body's subconscious way of pushing back.

So how about you?   Do you still get nervous before your big races?  Or are you cool as a cucumber?  I've learned over the years that keeping the nervous energy at a minimum plays a big part in success or failure on race day.  So this week, I'll be focusing on just that.  Have a great week!
... be great today!

13 comments:

  1. Even for a low-stress race, I get nervous. I have no idea why! For my second marathon, I had a sinking feeling of doom at the start because I had a terrible, horrible, major failure of a first marathon, and I absolutely did not want to go through that again. That's understandable. But for other races? Why the nerves?! I'm not at all a nervous person, and I don't get jitters before other events. I was even nervous before PACING A FRIEND in a race! That's good advice to try to keep the nerves at bay. I will have to try harder to keep calm, since the more I'm focuses the better I do,

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    1. I think I've just wasted a lot of energy before races by worrying about them. It's something I really try to focus on.

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  2. New commenter here. :-) I've heard of your blog before but I was just googling Little Rock Half Marathon and an old race review you wrote popped up. I now see you are running the full there this Sunday. (I live outside Little Rock and have run the half or full the last few years. Love this race!) Anyway, this post really hits home this week. I tend to get very nervous before any race. I'm going to try to focus on thinking positive about Little Rock this week. Good luck!! I will be sure to check back here and see how it goes.

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    1. Hi Tia, thanks for stopping by. I've actually been on your blog before - you're super fast! LR is one off my favorite places to run, but I've done really great there. This time will be no exception, ha, but hopefully I can BQ. We'll see.

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  3. Oh yeah I get nervous. Not before every single race but before a lot of them. It's not always just the running I get nervous about - a lot of the time it's about peripheral things. I can almost make myself sick about flying, about waiting for toilets or about needing to go mid-race. And the stupid thing is that I'm not ever going to place (except maybe in my age group) so it really doesn't matter.

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  4. You're not alone in that, sometimes my "to do" list before a race is bigger than the race itself

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  5. Yes nervous.....for all the half marathons...for the 10k I am ok and the 5k are just fun now because doing all with the kids. For the half...I tend to be very anxious...thinking too much about stomach problems...not finishing...all positive as you can see....I need to do better. And for the pups...well don't you think yours need a pal....a cute one.....come on...imagine how many husband points you would score.....think about that ...

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    1. I can definitely always use more husband points!

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  6. I always get nervous, but more excited I think. I've been down for the count most of this winter, but am looking forward to building back up this spring (if spring ever comes, lol)!

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    1. No doubt Michelle, I'm so ready to start training without 7 layers of clothes on

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  7. It depends...sometimes I get nervous when I actually have goals beyond "finish" (semi-rare but happening occasionally) that I've worked hard towards, sometimes I get nervous bc I'm completely unprepared (all too often), and before the Castlewood 8-hr I was VERY nervous about the conditions, particularly racing and canoeing in temps in the teens.

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    1. Yeah, I think it's that we don't want to feel like we wasted all of that training Kate ... you're much tougher than me, I won't be in a canoe in the teens any time soon!

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  8. Good post Jim. Yes, after 11 marathons I still get nervous before a marathon. Anything shorter than that, no I don't. There are so many disastrous things that can happen during a marathon. I worry about race logistics, stomach issues, being able to know where I am going (in small races), and whether I'll hit the wall at mile 18 and have to walk / shuffle the last 8 miles. I suppose that is what keeps me coming back -- the challenge and the sense of accomplishment.

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Thanks for stopping by ... your comment's always welcome!