Tips for Staying Mentally Strong During Tough Races
'Some of the greatest battles will be fought in the silent chambers of your own soul.' - E.Benson.
This quote is a great illustrator of the importance of your mental state when challenging your body with a tough race. Over the last few weeks, I've noticed a lot of the Facebook comments on the Wolf Run's wall are in the vein of 'I'm excited but also quite terrified by the Wolf Run!' and, 'We must be mad!', so I thought I'd write about some mental and strategic tips that will help all you Wolf Runners beat your inner demons and arrive on the morning of the 24th September feeling perhaps a little nervous, but confident and in control.
Set Realistic Goals
I am doing an Ironman in 2 weeks time. It is my first ever race of this distance and my training plan, through injury and that other thing known as 'life', has not gone at all to plan. But rather than winding myself up over desirable splits for my run time, or whether I'll get to the finish line in sub 13 hours, my goal is simply to finish. In accepting that I am unlikely to set a new GB record for an amateur, I have relaxed as I know that my goal is realistic and achievable. I can enjoy the experience of my race and still (if everything goes to plan) have the satisfaction of hitting my target, rather than beating myself up for not achieving the unachievable.
Setting realistic goals is essential in keeping your sport fun - and remember; it is meant to be fun! So with the wolf run - set a realistic goal for an unknown course, be it a sub 50 minute finish or just finishing in one piece.
Avoid Negative Self Talk
The worst thing you can do at this point is start to wind yourself up. Trust me when I tell you this won't do you an iota of good. Remember those awful classmates at school who would stand outside the exam room loudly declaring they'd done no work, were bound to fail and it was all hopeless? Remember how contagious that stress was?!
Quietly take confidence from the training you have done and the groundwork you have put in. Don't beat yourself up for the few runs you missed, or the lack of stretching or spin class you 'forgot' in favour of a Friday night pint. Think of the progress you have made between signing up for the run and where you are now. Kipling said this best: 'If you can keep your head when all about you are loosing theirs....yours is the earth and everything that's in it'.
Have a Positive Mantra
Chrissie Wellington, the British triathlete, who continues to set impressive new world records writes positive mantras on the sides of her water bottles to carry with her as she races. She understands the power in having a motivational thought to help her though those moments when doubts threaten to creep in and rob you of your power and energy.
A mantra can help keep you focussed on the task in hand and create an affirmative frame of mind. Popular mantras ideas are: 'I can do this, I am strong, I believe in me, I rock!'
Choose something short and easy to remember. Something that has a personal meaning for you. Practise saying or thinking it when you are feeling strong and motivated - during a good bit of a training session or when you are feeling excited about the race. When you use it during the race, don't repeat it over and over without thought. Slow your breathing, say it to yourself and think about its meaning. The words you choose will help give you tremendous power over your state of mind, and your state of mind can completely change your performance.
See yourself running through trees & lakes, up steep muddy banks, over huge fallen trees and up woodland tracks. When you are out on your next jog, try to picture yourself encountering an obstacle in your way and see yourself smoothly navigating the challenge. Think about how you'll feel on the starting line, at 5k, 8km and as you cross the line. This type of mental rehearsal will help you stay calm on the day and make you feel prepared for whatever the Wolf Run course designers plan to throw your way.
Race Day Preparation
One thing that's going to make you feel super confident is knowing what you are going to wear on the day, and how you will fuel yourself. Go through your running kit and select the the shirt, sports bra, shorts or training pants you'll wear on the day. Give the outfit a trial run on your next jog. Then wash it and put it to one side - ready for race day. Identify which trainers you'll run in; if you are buying new ones them you should already be wearing them in by now. Don't think about getting anything new for the day of the run - you might look smart on the start line but blisters would quickly take their toll!
Similarly, try eating a breakfast that you know goes down well and that isn't too heavy on your stomach. If you are planning on having any energy bars or gels during the course, practise with them now. No one needs the extra bother of a dodgy tummy during a race.
As ever - any personal queries you need answering, feel free to contact me through my website: www.geneferarcher.co.uk and I will do my best to help. Otherwise, I'll see you all on 24 September for your first Wild Run.