A tough race is a demoralizing event for any runner. You may have trained correctly and still find your race a struggle. Maybe you didn’t fuel or hydrate properly before your race. Or, if you are like me, sometimes you imbibe too much beer the night before. No matter what the reason, I have seven strategies that can help you power through a tough race the next time you experience one.
1. Have a power playlist –
I love this strategy. I have a playlist named ‘Last 2 Miles,’ and I have it packed with my favorite up-tempo power songs. I’ve found that the last two miles of my last relay leg is always the hardest thing to get through mentally. My ‘Last 2 Miles’ playlist has helped me numerous times.
2. Say something beautiful to everyone around you –
When you say positive and friendly things to people around you, you are filling your brain with positivity. This positivity will fill you up and help you feel better about how awful your body feels. Every time someone passes you, tell them they are doing a great job. You can also say good morning!
My kids learned that by filling someone else’s bucket with kindness, you are also filling your own. Try it next time you feel the finish line will never appear.
3. Thank the volunteers –
By engaging and appreciating the people who are helping you experience your current race, you can also boost your mood. Appreciation and positivity can not only make the volunteers feel good about their work but will elevate your outlook as well.
4. Keep a smile on your face, don’t grimace –
There is something to be said about keeping a smile on your face despite how bad you feel inside. Not only does grimacing contribute to unsightly wrinkles and lines, but it reinforces negative feelings. Smile big and feel the happiness flow through you. As they say, fake it until you make it.
5. Quit looking at your watch and look at the scenery instead –
I employed this strategy during an especially tricky Hood to Coast leg this year. I was having a rough time. I hadn’t slept; I hadn’t eaten well. I was an exhausted wreck and found myself checking the mileage on my watch every 1/8 of a mile.
I turned my music up a notch, relaxed my shoulders and started looking around me. I read the signs on buildings, noticed how some leaves were falling from trees in the subtle breeze. I watched the people running around me and took in my beautiful surroundings. It worked – I looked at my watch less often my perceived effort felt so much easier.
6. Ask yourself if you would rather be doing laundry or dishes –
It’s easy to feel like you would rather be doing anything else during a difficult race. You start thinking about how good your couch and a Netflix binge session sounds, or how you could use a nap.
When these thoughts creep up, remember that if you were actually at home, you would most likely have chores to do. Would you rather be doing laundry, dishes, mowing the lawn, washing the car? Eleven times out of ten, the answer is that you would much rather be running.
7. Pull out your mantra –
When all else fails, pull out your mantra. If you don’t have one yet – get one. They are a simple little thing but oh-so powerful. They can consist of just a few words. I’ve used “You’re a fierce b*tch” for several years. It works wonders when I have to pull myself up from the depths of exhaustion and self-pity.
No matter the strategy you employ during a tough race, remember that you do something that most other people only dream of (and yes, for some the thought of running is a nightmare). Not every run is easy, but without the difficult ones, we can’t appreciate the good ones.