1. Use races as training runs.
One of the best ways to combat nerve-induced underperformace at races is to make the act of racing itself a more enjoyable experience by taking the pressure off yourself.
This is, of course, easier said than done. Normally, a race is a big event that requires financial and logistical sacrifices. All your training has been targeted toward performing well in this one event. These factors build up the race in your mind, so much so that it often becomes a huge stress, especially if you’ve struggled in your last few races.
Therefore, you need to reprogram your mind to associate racing with stress-free, exciting and positive moments. The best way to accomplish this is to enter small, local road races and enjoy the experience of running without big crowds. Wake up in your own bed, be comfortable in your surroundings, and envision yourself on one of your usual training runs with hundreds of people cheering for you.
How to execute:
Head to your local running store (they often have information about events in your area) or look online for some low-key 5K or 10K races. Pick a few races that are easy to get to and won’t have huge crowds. Pencil them in on your training schedule. Then, swap your mid-week and use the race as your weekend workouts, or just make the race part of your weekly long run.
This won’t compromise your long-term training plan, but will allow you to show up at a race not worried about having to set a PR (that’s not the goal for the training run), which helps you begin to recondition your mind to relax about the race atmosphere.