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Top 10 irrational thoughts pre-race

Racing is hard and it can cause a runner's mind to go to strange places on the start line

Runners stand on the line

Racing is hard and there are almost always nerves associated with stepping up to the line. These nerves can produce some of the most ridiculous thoughts; things you certainly wouldn’t consider in a calm state. Below are ten of the most irrational, but common, thoughts that runners have in the moments before the gun. With the spring race season in full swing, many runners have considered at least one of the follow before beginning their event.


First Half
Start line for the First Half in 2015. Photo: David Parker (race director).


  1. Why did I choose to do this? On the start line, most runners know they have chosen to be there. A lot of people also question why they made that choice. Remember, there was probably a time when this race was very important to you.
  2. What can I do to get out of this? This is a desperate thought that most people think at least once before a race. This has nothing to do with preparation and everything to do with nerves. You would never actually quit, but the thought is attractive.
  3. Do I even remember how to run? A recurring nightmare every runner has had; you’re trying so hard to move but getting nowhere. Don’t worry, this scenario is biologically unlikely.
  4. Did I train enough? Chances are you did, and this thought is brought on by shorter mileage during the taper. The work is done, now get excited to see the results.
  5. Did I train too much? Maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. But now it’s too late, so focus on the task at hand.
  6. Do I have to go to the bathroom, again? Probably not, because you’ve likely already gone 12-17 times. The nervous pee is a thing.
  7. Maybe this will be easy. Especially if you’re lining up for a marathon, somewhere around the 30K mark it will no longer feel easy. But that’s ok, it’s supposed to be that way. 
  8. Are my shoes tied? Hopefully, because you probably did a warm up and they would’ve been tied for that, but double check. Better yet, double knot.
  9. Did I eat enough before this? Trial and error is the key to avoiding this question, but sometimes even when you have a pre-race routine, hunger can sneak up on you. Pack extra snacks and gels just to be sure you have enough energy on the start line and during the race.
  10. Does this track look bigger? Because sometimes tracks do look much larger than you remember. Your brain is fooling you. If the race is sanctioned, the track is for sure 400m.