Milton Keynes Marathon: Dealing with pre-race anxiety

Sue Peacock

The MK marathon relay is only a few weeks away, so to help you enjoy your challenge, here are some useful mind mastery techniques from one of our Consultant Health Psychologists, Dr Sue Peacock at BMI The Saxon Clinic to get you over the finishing line.

Dealing with pre-race anxiety

Are you feeling a little jittery? Don’t worry as the majority of runners do. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s their first marathon relay or if they are experienced runners. Remember, you have done all the hard work in your training, the race is for you to enjoy. Here are a few tips to help you take on pre-race anxiety. 

Be prepared

You know that you have trained properly, now it's time to put the finishing touches to it. You might want to take a look at the course map, so you know what to expect. You can use a checklist to make sure you have everything you need including, your running shoes and race number. If you pack the night before, this will relieve some of your anxiety on the race morning.

Pre-race rituals 

Pre-race rituals are often worth adopting such as, listening to music, meditation or specific warm-up exercises. Some professional athletes use them to manage their anxiety and by practising them regularly, it will be familiar and calming for you on race day. 


Picture yourself running the race, visualise what you are wearing, hear the crowd cheering you on and see yourself cross the finish line. This can be practised a few weeks before the event and will help reduce anxiety as it minimises fear of the unknown when you familiarise yourself with the course.

Try breathing deeply 

You have probably noticed that when you get anxious, your breathing becomes shallower. If you try breathing from your stomach area rather than your chest, you will feel instantly more calm and relaxed. 

Enjoy your run

Run without any expectations as high expectations can increase anxiety, especially if you want to obtain a particular goal. Focus on the running, soak up the atmosphere and you will feel calmer. 

From the start towards the finish line 

Sue Peacock running

Running is often a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. Bear in mind these tips to help get you through the race.

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going

Remember all the training you have done, the sacrifices you have made and have faith in your ability. Picture yourself running the middle or end part of the race, including how you want to pose for your crossing the finish photo. If you have a time in mind, then imagine the clock showing the time you want to achieve. Above all, don’t give into self doubt and discomfort. 

Imagine how you will feel when you hear those important people in your life cheer you across the finish and think how proud you will feel achieving this feat as you receive your medal. Remember that running a marathon relay isn’t easy and remind yourself that you are taking on a challenge that you have prepared for. Remind yourself that the difficulties you may experience will make crossing the finishing line even more worthwhile. 

Segment your run 

It can be useful to break down the distance into small manageable chunks, for example, a mile at a time. Picture yourself running on fresh legs at each segment and focus on getting to the end of your allocated distance. 

Talk to yourself

Think and say to yourself statements such as, “If this was easy, then everyone would be doing this” or, “Keep on running”. Perhaps a mantra might help, picking short phrases such as, “one step at a time” that you play repetitively in your head. This may keep you focused whilst running and provide that inner motivation when you most need it.

Distract yourself 

Do whatever it takes to keep your mind occupied. Sing songs, play number and/or word games or talk to other runners. Make sure to look around you, at the crowds cheering you on and the other runners. Perhaps pick out someone running for the same cause as you or count how many runners have a certain colour top. It’s useful to distract yourself from how you feel if you’re finding it difficult.

Use your imagination

When it’s really tough, imagine that you are feeling relaxed; your running is smooth, graceful and effortless. Don’t forget why you are running and think about that special cause, or person, that is the reason you have put in all this hard work. 

Good luck and in the meantime, feel free to download our free guide to running as well!

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337
or make an online enquiry.

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