Pre-race Nerves: Why Do They Jangle?!

I’m a little on edge this week, a little fidgety. With less than a week to go until the Beachy Head Marathon I am starting to feel the faint jangling’s of nerves coming on.

This happens to me with any sporting event I take part in although cycling events do not seem to elicit the same nerve levels as runs. I think, with the cycling, I have lower expectations of myself and am also less worried about injury. My dodgy knee has a great tendency to give up on me just when I need it to be at its strongest. Whilst training for my first ultra marathon this year the knee held up splendidly during training before becoming agonising just eight miles into the actual run. I made it to the end but not without some severely gritted teeth and a few codeine.

Why nerves?

I don’t believe the nerves stem from any one particular fear though. They can be as bad for a 10k as they are for a long distance run and I even found myself experiencing them before training runs for the ultra. Rebecca Barber of sums up why nerves are actually good for us when building up to a run in this short article. Rebecca sums up three reasons quite neatly:

  • Nerves show you care.
  • Nerves occur when risk, fear or challenge is afoot.
  • Nerves show we are feeling.

These reasons really resonated with me. No going out to win a race does not mean I do not care about it. Indeed when I completed the London to Paris cycle ride in 24 hours a few weeks ago I found I cared deeply about finishing, however long it took – see my post on my other blog; ‘I’m Not Much Of A Cyclist But…’ for that story.

Getting Emotional

I always feel a little emotional on a start and finish line, the hopes, fears and excitement of people around me seem to intensify my own. I even found myself teary whilst spectating at the Ikano Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham. Seeing the reactions of runners as they finally approached the finish of their run resonated deeply with me.

My partner likes to remind me of how quickly I burst into tears on him when I crossed the finish of the Ultimate Trails ultra this year. But I knew why; I had spent 37 miles envisaging that finish line, willing one foot in front of the other to reach it. The relief was immense and the nerves had dissipated into relief.

I found a helpful article from Coach Jeff at Runners Connect, which gives some good little pointers on how to control pre-race nerves. I particularly like the idea of visualising the race before hand – almost like mentally walking the course at In equestrian cross country the riders walk the course before hand. They can check how many strides a horse will need to take before each jump, look for objects which may spook their horse and check for changes in light e.g. riding into a wooded area, which may affect the horses vision.

I shall try to mentally walk the course on Saturday morning – probably whilst standing in the long queue for the toilets with all the other runners going for that last nervous pee!

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Pre-race nerves


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