How to: Create a Pre-Race Focus Plan

2012 startToday’s guest post comes from Chris Hill, a graduate student at Miami University in the Psychosocial Sport Studies Program and member of the Columbus Marathon Psych Team.

If you have been at the start of a race and realized that you forgot something important for your optimal performance (e.g., race supplements, race number, watch), you know what a terrible feeling that can be.  A Pre-Race Focus Plan can minimize the chances of this happening in an upcoming event.  A focus plan is often used to help athletes plan for how to think, feel and act before and during a race.  Pre-Race Focus Plans can help you get to the start line feeling confident and without the anxiety of missing an important part of your race plan.

A great start to a Pre-Race Focus Plan would be to start making a list now of the things that you will need on race day.  Remember, this race is in October in Ohio, so the weather could be anywhere between 20 and 80 degrees.  Bring clothes for ANY weather condition.  If you start thinking about making the list now, you will be much less likely to forget something at home that is important for your race.

Next, list everything that you want or need to do the night before the race.  Doing this will reduce some of the pre-race jitters and hopefully allow you to get a better night of sleep. For example:

Pre-Race Checklist

  • Pin bib to shirt I will race in
  • Mix any pre-race drinks or other fuel to be used during race
  • Lay out gels or other fuels that will be carried during race
  • Lay out entire race outfit

On race day, have your focus plan mapped out from the time you wake up until the time the gun goes off.  I encourage you to be as detailed as possible. Write down everything, even what you plan to eat the morning of the race and what time you want to eat it.  For example, I make sure that I eat a plain bagel with peanut butter two hours and fifteen minutes before the race begins.  On my race day focus plan, I make sure that I have things written out in 15 minute intervals starting from when I wake up until about 30 minutes before the race, when I drop the intervals to 5 minutes.  By mentally rehearsing this plan over and over before race day, it will allow you to be more prepared on race day than just haphazardly getting ready for the race.  It will allow you to create the optimal environment for your race day.

By preparing this plan carefully, it will allow you to be at the start line of the race feeling confident that you have taken care of everything in your control.  Creating a focus plan will keep pre-race anxiety manageable and allow you to concentrate on the race ahead.

If you have any questions about creating a Pre-Race Focus Plan, feel free to email Chris Hill at You can also meet the Psych Team and get more mental training tips during our upcoming “Get Psyched” seminar on Saturday, September 21. Visit for details!


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