I’m no stranger to competition. From a young age I’ve competed in swimming, running, hockey and even race walking championships. But since getting into long distance running as an adult, I’ve had a huge mental problem on race day. Every time.
I’m in no way a fast runner, so I’m not running in competition with anyone but myself and my own expectations of time or achievement. Believe me, I have told myself many times that I just need to get over myself and that no one cares what time I do. But regardless of the distance, I just get too nervous and cannot push myself as I do in training. It’s gotten to the point, that I will even avoid a 5km race because I hate the feeling after of knowing I could have done a million times better.
So in a quest to stop stressing out / actually put my training to good use, I’m going to try out these tips in both training and race day. Obviously, these tips are about running but could be applied to any goal you want to achieve.
Focus on the now
Only think about what you can control in that moment (e.g pace, stride, breathing). Sometimes the event itself and the fact that you’re surrounded by thousands of people can be too much pressure before you’ve even started. So instead of focussing on what’s going on around you, try to focus on yourself and just getting through each mile as you go, as you would in training. Do that and the rest of the race will take care of itself.
Anticipate dips and don’t worry about it
Long distance running is an emotional rollercoaster. You’ll have good points and bad points in along the way. If you know that these dips in motivation are going to come, roll with it, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of your race or the end of a personal best time. If you anticipate these feelings before they come you’re more likely to be able to deal with them when they arrive.
Stick with what’s comfortable
If you usually train with headphones, race with headphones. If you prefer to start off slow and pick up the pace in training, do the same in the race. Keeping things as familiar as possible will take the pressure off on race day and make it less likely that you’ll panic halfway through.
Go at it alone
I tend to only do races that my friends are doing and we end up being a massive group traveling to the event together. This is obviously really fun and it turns the weekend into a whole fun holiday. But for me, the race itself becomes way more stressful. Again, I’m not competing against any of my friends and none of them care what time I do, but the pressure of having everyone there is too much so I have a meltdown every time! So for now, I’m only going to enter races by myself until I can build up my confidence and save the group trips for cheering only.
Enjoyment over results
Instead of focusing on the time or results you want to achieve, focus on enjoying yourself. Obviously, this is easier said than done, but I’ve found that races I’ve done without a watch on I’ve enjoyed much more because the end time wasn’t the goal and I wasn’t left with the feeling of disappointment after.