Using Visualization to Prepare for Race Day

October 13, 2009

My first experience with serious race day preparation and visualization was in college.  During the cross-country season, we raced every other weekend; so on the Monday of a race week, our coach would lead us through a “chalk talk” in the locker room.  She would go over how the ideal race was supposed to look and which team members would have to finish ahead of members of our rival teams for us to win.  

Throughout the week we would review our race plans, and visualize that we were executing the plan to a tee.  

The night before the race, we would lie down on the floor of the field house with our eyes closed, and Coach would lead us through exactly what was supposed to happen on race day from the time we woke up, all the way through our post-race cool down.  We would go through what the weather would feel like, how the grass on the soccer field would smell, parts of the course that were strategic to be able to pass Wellesley’s number two runner or Mount Holyoke’s number three girl.  This way, when we arrived at the course, we knew exactly what we were supposed to do, and there were no questions about what we were there to accomplish.  

Of course, most of us are not going to require such a strategic based visualization.  However, visualization strategies can benefit every runner, especially once you figure out how to adapt it to fit your running program.  You can use it to help you relax, as well as focus during those pre-race moments when there is a lot to be distracted by.  Just like training your body and doing your long runs and strength training, you need to train your mind as well.

In the weeks leading up to the race, practice visualizing your perfect race scenario, from arriving at the staging area, all the way to your post-race cool down.  Visualize yourself only repeating positive thoughts on race day and feeling confident.

In addition to visualization techniques, check out Elyse’s other tips to calm those pre-race jitters.

There is a lot to think about on race day. But by practicing visualization will pave the way to an enjoyable and successful day.


Elyse devotes her time to her two passions:  running and spreading the love of running to athletes of all levels.   She is the President of the Washington Running Club, the Head Coach of the North Face Endurance Challenge, a coach for Weight Watchers and leads the run club at lululemon Athletica.  And for the tween set, Elyse coaches  for Girls on the Run.