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Becoming a Jedi - mental preparation for racing

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Mental preparation for racing

Peak performance for racing relies on a strong foundation of physical preparation but you also need to work on your mental and emotional preparation too. If you get your mental preparation right, then you can go that extra second faster or have that added rush of energy when you need it most.

If you get the right type of ‘stress’ during a race performing the right mental response, you call it a challenge and you enjoy it. If you get the wrong type of stress or take the wrong mental decisions to stress, it’s affect can be affect your performance.

Spending some time beforehand setting mental goals, building up self-belief and thinking about how you’ll react when stress knocks at your door will make your race experience far more productive and enjoyable.

Mental Goals

Set yourself A, B and C targets. Think about the C goal beforehand and accept that some days it just might not happen. They’ll always be another race to get that elusive PB. If you can accept the C goal before the start at whatever speed, in whatever fashion then you’ll often relax and perform far better than you expect.


Stay positive. Look back at all the training you’ve done. All the preparation. All the hours. How far you’ve come. Avoid negative statements and thoughts. Avoid negative people and situations. Don’t knock yourself down before you start or judge yourself against others. Continue in this mindset during your race too.

Stress and negative emotions are huge energy drainers and interfere with your focus, concentration, ability to perform and general health. The principle source of stress is your mind.

Examples of negative thoughts;

‘Some of the runners on the start line are way faster or fitter than me and are real athletes. I don’t deserve to line up with them as they’ll finish well in front of me.

‘He or she’s faster than me. I don’t think I can run as fast as them.’

‘I am slow, I can’t do it’.

Better words that could be used to form a positive mindset;

‘So I’m a slower runner. Who cares? If I take it slow, I’ll get around and still enjoy it’.

‘I’m in the best possible shape I can be. I’ll race my own race to the best of my ability and if I’m close to them in the later stages, I’ll have a go at pushing past them.’

‘I am slow but I won't quit. It may not be pretty but I’ll finish’.

So how do we mentally prepare for the stress we’ll all face during racing at some point in our running careers?


During the week (s) before your race, prepare for the race negatives and stress scenarios before they happen. List down everything that could go wrong and then write down next to them how you’ll react. Giving each one some careful consideration. Stress examples could be;

What do I do if I can’t stop feeling sick before the start?

What do I do if I trip over?

What do I do if the field goes out harder than expected?

What do I do if there's no pace in the race?

Using the first stress scenario, a possible pre-prepared response could be;

If I feel sick I will;

· Not panic, stay calm

· Sit down for 5 mins and breathe slowly

· Try to drink some water

· Try to think of something that makes me feel happy to take my mind off feeling sick

The first line of the response ‘not panic, stay calm’ should always be your first reaction to a negative stress scenario. If you can’t do this, then all the steps after won’t be actioned to solve or reduce the stress.

By following these tips to develop your mental preparation skills before your race or , you’ll greatly enhance your race experience. They can then possibly be taken into your life to give you more enjoyment and fulfilment with less worry, frustration, stress and negative emotion. They can help make you more patient, optimistic and motivated. They can also allow help you to clear out mental / emotional clutter too.

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