Calming Your Pre-Marathon Nerves: Top Ten Tips


By Coach Mark Buciak, QCC


The last week or two before the marathon can be the most difficult part of training for many runners. The miles decrease during the taper, but the nerves increase. I still have these feelings even after completing 58 career marathons, including 35 Boston Marathons and seven at Chicago. The following suggestions may help you deal with pre-race jitters.


-1- “The cake is in the oven!”

You can’t make up for lost time and miles at this point. Rest is key. Yes, you still should do some easy miles, but no more long runs. Enjoy your taper. You deserve it!


-2- No changes.

Do not try anything new in the last weeks before the race. This includes everything from your shoes, diet and clothes to what you consume before and during your runs.


-3- Your running logbook.

If you’ve kept a running log, read through it. Remind yourself of all the hard work you have done. This will build up your confidence. If you have not kept one, start now by putting your thoughts in writing. Recap your key runs. This will help calm your nerves.


-4- Pre-marathon massage.

A massage can help you relax. Make sure you go to someone who has experience working with runners and book it for two to five days before the marathon. Schedule your appointment early to avoid conflicts during this busy time of year.


-5- Yoga class.
A gentle or beginner’s class is another way to relax.


-6- Write your race goals.

Include several goals that you would like to accomplish, such as getting to the finish line safely and with a big smile on your face. Contemplate alternate time goals (“A” and “B”) to avoid unnecessary pressure that could negatively impact your race day performance.


-7- Pack for marathon day.
A week or ten days before the race, start thinking and gathering everything you need or might need for the event. Don’t wait until the day before to do this.


-8- Go to the expo on Friday.

Friday is less crowded and more enjoyable than Saturday. Sleep in on Saturday and relax at home. Stay off your feet.


-9- Pre-race dinner:

If possible, eat this meal at home. You can decide what to eat, but I will make two important suggestions. Have this meal about 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon so that you will not be going to sleep on a full stomach. Remember that you’ll be waking up about 4 a.m. on Sunday. After your meal, go for a five- to 10-minute relaxed walk around the block. This helps digest the food and gives your mind some fresh air to relax.


-10- Plan how to get to the start line:

Don’t overlook this important piece of the puzzle, and don’t count on finding a taxi at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. You could take the CTA, but I suggest that you ask your most dependable friend or a family member to drive you to the starting area and drop you off.


Additionally, I will offer a free final tips seminar for the race on Tuesday, Sept. 30 from 7 to 8 p.m. at REI, 1466 N. Halsted. I look forward to seeing you on marathon day at the 13.2-mile mark near Old St. Pat’s Church. I will give a shout out: just run on the right side of the street and have your name on your shirt.


Wishing you a safe and enjoyable marathon.


Mark Buciak (PB:2:30:25) is the coach and program director of THE ROAD TO BOSTON Training Program and Running Camps. Runners of all abilities are welcome at his year round program. Find more information and contact Coach Mark at