8 Tips to Stay Mentally Prepared For Race Day

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Training for any distance race is difficult. Not only do you commit to logging miles and runs, you also commit to being mentally ready. There is a saying that running is 80% mental, and I 100% agree with that!


As I get ready to conquer another New York City Marathon, I’m continuing to train my mind to stay healthy mentally. It can be harder than running the miles! Being mentally ready is just as important as making sure your body is physically prepared.

Here are a few tips to stay mentally ready before your race:

Be prepared

Staying prepared is something silly, yet I still struggle with doing it. Make sure you are ready on race morning and have everything together before your race. If you are in a rush and panicked the morning before a race, you won’t be in the right headspace.

Trust your training

It is easy to remember the bad workouts. You might have 10 good workouts and 1 bad, and we remember the negative. Trust your training. I like to look through old training logs and remember the days I crushed a particular run or race.

Try not to get overwhelmed

Getting overwhelmed with the small things has been tough for me before the NYCM. The marathon is such a hard race logistics wise. Finding hotels…where to eat…when I’ll pick up my packet…the train schedule…even getting to New York from the greater Philadelphia area…as you can see the list is endless!

Remember, you can’t be over prepared with planning the logistics of a race. Don’t let the non-racing pieces overwhelm you. Take one step at a time.

Understand that bad workouts happen

Speaking of bad workouts, they happen, and it’s okay. After a run or workout that didn’t go exceptionally well, take a few minutes to reflect. Was it hot?

Did you lack sleep?

Did your body just “not have it” that day?

Having a bad workout is okay. It is crucial to take time and reflect. If you learn from a bad workout, then it wasn’t bad at all. Remember the feeling of when you had a good workout because it will come again.

Focus on your goal

Focus on your goal and don’t worry about others. This is your race, so it’s important to focus on your goal and how you will run. These days with social media it can be easy to get wrapped up in others and how they will race. How someone else races will not affect you.

Visualize your goals

When I swam competitively, our collegiate coach would spend an hour each week having us visualize our future success and our goals. He found it helped us mentally prepare and if we believed we could do it, we were more likely to accomplish big goals.

Spend time just laying back and visualizing what you want to achieve. It doesn’t matter whether it’s finishing the race in x:xx or arriving to the finish line healthy. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s your goal.

I cannot tell you the amount of hours I’ve spent visualizing myself confidently crossing the finish line of the marathon!

Stick to your routine as much as possible

The more boring you are before a race, the better. It’s your time to relax, and there is no reason to try anything new. Staying in a routine allows your body to prepare as if it’s another day.

Stay positive

Every training cycle and race will have something that goes “wrong.” Stay positive throughout those hiccups, and you are much more likely to achieve your goals. Personally, I tell myself, “nothing in life is perfect and I’ve done the hard work to get me here.” You must believe in yourself to give yourself the chance for success.

Have a Mantra:

It doesn’t matter what the mantra is but when the going gets hard have a go-to mantra to repeat to yourself. Here are a few:

  • Today is my day.
  • I can do this.
  • I believe in myself. I believe in my running.
  • If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
  • I can do anything for 20 minutes (one of my personal favorites).

As you can see training your brain is just as important as training yourself physically. What are some ways you stay mentally ready for a race?


Hollie Sick is an avid New Jersey-based runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

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