Ask any marathoner or ultra runner: taper anxiety is real.
Even after weeks and months of training, the taper is the worst time of the whole training period. What should be a glorious week (or two or three) of downtime is really a torturous period that breeds anxiety and doubt. Just when we should be feeling our most confident, taper anxiety comes in and stirs up a whole mess of distracting emotions.
For anyone who has ever experienced either the taper crazies or a massive anxiety attack because of a race— hey, that’s me!– it’s a good idea to have some strategies to cope with pre-race anxiety. And because I am one of these people, I’ve spent the last several months working to keep my running-related anxiety in check. This is, after all, supposed to be fun!
I’m using three strategies to cope with taper anxiety and pre-race nerves.
Look, I’m not going to lie to you. Distraction has become a huge coping mechanism for pre-race anxiety. I have a Kindle Fire fully loaded with books, TV shows, podcasts, and movies to keep my mind off of its current obsession. While I’m not normally an advocate of tuning out from what I’m experiencing, it certainly has a place in emotional self-management right now.
It’s not just pre-race nerves I’m managing. I have two overnight flights in a row plus an eight-hour airport layover to get through. I’m travelling by myself. That’s an awful lot of time to be left to my own thoughts. Netflix, take me away!
Like last year’s Comrades run, I have developed a series of mantras to get me through.
My bedrock running mantra is relentless forward motion. This isn’t so helpful pre-race, though, so I have another that I rely on during the taper:
I breathe in peace; I breathe out joy.
This mantra reminds me to slow down my breathing, take in some peace, and share the joy that I have for running and for life. It is a meditative form of pranyama that I have used at other significant times– like childbirth! I know that repetition of this mantra can help calm my nerves.
And, finally, I know I should trust the training. That leads me to my third taper anxiety coping strategy.
3. STUDY AND REVIEW
I am a diligent student of the sport, and I read and watch everything I can about each race. By studying the race route, its history, and the race day set up, I can eliminate worrying about logistics. Given that most of the logistics are out of my control, this reminds me that there will be things I cannot control. There’s no use spending my precious energy there!
When I am feeling an inadequate sort of anxious, I review my running log so I can remind myself of just how much work I’ve put in to get me to the taper and to the start line. I know that I have done the work necessary for a successful race. I validate my preparedness and work to have my confidence crush my anxiety.
What are your favorite ways to deal with pre-race anxiety?