The Mental Side of Racing

Happy Wednesday, hope you guys are all having a good week!

With the Fast Half being only 2 and a half weeks away at this point, I wanted to do a post on the mental aspects to racing. It’s no surprise that I was disappointed with my results atย the Half at the Hamptons. All that work to run the exact same time as my current PR. Yes, there were a lot of factors that made that race a challenge – the wind, the cold, the hills… But when I look back on it all, I realize my thoughts going into the race were essentially along the lines of I’m in the best shape of my life, shiny new PR here I come!

A tiny little part of me thought it was going to be easy.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was going to have to push, but I think I had kind of forgotten just how hard that would be. I understood conceptually it would be tough and require some serious mental grit, but when it came down to it, I kind of shied away from the pain when I was in the thick of it. I think some part of me thought it was a given that I would PR considering the quality of the training cycle I had put in. But I think it’s safe to say the days of ‘easy’ PRs are gone.

Once I finished wallowing in my disappointment, I immediately began thinking about the next steps to keep that from happening again in a race. Obviously, I can’t control weather and all the external factors at play, but I CAN control and improve on my mental strategy. After some review browsing online, I purchased How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald.

How Bad Do You Want ItIt’s not an instructional manual; it’s more of a series of anecdotes about various athletes who have overcome mental barriers to reach the pinnacle of their sport. He then explains some of the more technical aspects of the coping mechanisms demonstrated. As a psychology nerd, I loved this.

With the Fast Half, I don’t plan to take anything for granted. I know I’m going to have to work. I know that there is a doozy of a hill at Mile 6. Yes, I’ve put in the work and run some great times in workouts, but that doesn’t mean executing on race day is going to feel comfortable. It doesn’t feel easy for me to run a 7:30 mile split in a workout, so why would that feel easy at the end of a 13 mile race??? That’s going to be the time where I am going to HAVE to dig deep. I plan on keeping the disappointment from March close to my heart. I fully plan on letting those frustrations fuel me during the tough times in this race when I have to decide between cruising comfortably and giving it everything I’ve got.

I’ve already put it out there that I want to try to BQ at Philly in November (for my age group, I would need a 3:35 or better). My coach thinks it’s doable, and I have no doubt that my fitness will get there under her training. But the mental toughness has to be there too, especially when we’re talking about 26 miles. It’s something I want to continue to focus on, paying it the same attention I give to my weekly mileage and paces.

Any runners out there have any tips for mental strategies in races?

Do you have any goal races coming up?

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3 thoughts on “The Mental Side of Racing

  1. Mental toughness is a big part of long distance races. I like using mantras for positive encouragement when it gets tough on the course. I’ll acknowledge any negative thoughts then push them out of the way. Positive thinking goes a long way! I also like to do a quick mental “body check,” by starting with my feet and ankles- do they feel OK? Yes, how about my calves? OK, how are my quads and hamstrings doing? Good, how about my core, etc. After all of that and there are no real issues, I tell myself, you’re doing great, nothing is hurting, there’s no reason why you can’t keep pushing.

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