by Dathan Ritzenhein | Jan 10, 2013 |
In order to be a successful racer, you need not only physical strength, but you also need mental strength. It takes a lot of training to run 26.2 miles but it also takes mental fortitude to push yourself, digging deep after you have already run hard for 20 miles. Training your brain to stay focused for 2+ hours is something you can practice daily.
One technique I practice each run is trying to stay relaxed. When fatigue starts to set in, the natural reaction is to tense up and fight through it. Looking at the finish of a race, most people clench their teeth and become tight. During practice, try being as relaxed as possible- during interval workouts, long runs and even on easy days. This will not feel natural but by allowing the body to relax you will actually run faster. In your next really hard speed workout, when you feel like you are topped out, try doing the next interval focusing on being fluid and relaxed, you will be amazed that you can actually run faster. In due time, this technique will become second nature and it will allow you to focus more in the race and still have great kick.
Another way I am able to stay focused during a race is by pushing myself to the limit. Most people never go to max intensity. Your body needs to learn to hurt, otherwise it will shut down at the end of a race. Every few workouts I try to push my body to the line. This can’t be done every workout otherwise you will risk injury and running yourself into the ground. But small amounts of pain teaches your body to endure and push through, just like in a race. Being able to focus when your brain is telling you to slow down isn’t easy, so having those key killer workouts will help.
Another way to maintain focus on race day is by minimizing errors and surprises. The week before a big race I try to not eat or drink anything new. I watch the weather forecast and prepare for every possible race day weather that may come my way, from wind or rain, to heat and snow, I don’t like to be unprepared. I like to visualize every situation in practice, that way if it ends up being bad weather, you won’t be concerned. We can’t control things like weather, but you can be prepared for them.
My final tip for staying focused is to carry on all your racing and warm up gear on the airplane or train. This way you are sure to never have it lost. All professional athletes do this and it is something that anyone can do to put their minds at ease. Runners have very little equipment, so the last thing you want to do is lose it. When you are unprepared or surprises pop up before race day, they can be very distracting, and can take away positive energy you need for the starting line. The last thing you want to do is have to go and buy a new pair of shoes the day before your race.
When training for a race everyone knows to prepare physically by logging mile after mile, but by adding the mental component to your regime, you are sure to gain an extra edge over your comeptitors the last few miles of the race.