Races are exciting—they motivate us when we're gutting out those hard workouts. Does any runner not feel a chill on the back of her neck when she hears the start gun go off?
At the same time, all that excitement, anticipation and energy can be a double-edged sword. Race-day atmosphere brings an extra boost of adrenaline and competition, which runners want to harness to elevate their performance. However, manage that energy poorly and it can turn into anxiety; too much pressure and nervousness will cause your performance to take a nosedive.
Handling the jitters that come with race day is a pinnacle key to racing; regardless of fitness, if you don't manage this nervous energy constructively, you're not going to perform well.
Think Productive Thoughts at the Start Line
Nerves aren't bad. They're a sign that you want to do well; it means your goals matter to you. The issue is how you channel that energy. Realize that on race day you either have or haven't done all you could during training to set yourself up for success.
If you didn't or weren't able to execute your training plan exactly as prescribed, then accept that it's unlikely that you'll run a PR, and focus instead on enjoying the race.
If your training did go well, draw confidence from knowing you are well prepared. Think of the hard workouts where you pushed and were strong the whole way. Channel that same strength; know you're tough as nails and will prove that in the race.
No matter how your training went, when you're at the starting line, focus only on things that build your confidence.
Things you should never think about on the starting line: Did you do enough, should you have done more speed work or hill sprints, did you have enough training time after your injury? The bottom line is you can't go back; focus on what you did do. Doubts have no place at the starting line.