Staying confident and believing in yourself is half of running. If you aren’t confident that you’ll do well, then chances are you probably won’t. We log hundreds of physically demanding miles and our bodies know we will achieve our goal.
Sometimes, it can be our mind that holds us back. Just like in life, staying confident in yourself and your abilities are key.
But how do you do that? How do you stay confident in yourself and your training when you find yourself at the starting line of your goal race?
1) Put in quality (running) time
First and foremost, you cannot be confident in yourself if you haven’t trained appropriately. Whatever distance you choose, make sure you train the proper way and respect the distance.
2) Understand that running is a collection of runs throughout training
It’s important to realize that your training isn’t based on a single run or race. Your overall fitness relies on consistency and all of your runs put together. There will be runs you feel on top of the world and runs you are counting down the seconds until they are over.
3) Understand the bad races come with the good races
Every runner from the runner first starting out to an Olympian has both good and bad races. If you are struggling to get through a run or race, just think about how great it felt when you achieved your last PR. No one can take that memory from you.
4) Mentally prepare yourself
Mentally preparing yourself will build confidence. There are many different methods to mentally prepare yourself for a race. Many runners underestimate the power of visualization for their mental training.
Visualize yourself crossing the finish line, smiling and happy. Or even visualize crossing the finish line in your goal time. There are many different methods runner choose to prepare mentally for their goal race.
5) Make a list of things that could go wrong and think about how you’ll address each one
At any race, something is bound to go wrong. It could be forgetting a gel, cramps or blisters. If you have thought about how you might tackle possible scenarios, you are more prepared and more confident if it does happen (but let’s hope not).
Here are a few possible issues:
- GI Issues: GI problems can typically be avoided by planning out meals in advance and eating food you are familiar with and like. If a GI issue does happen, think about how you might handle it? Find a bathroom mid race? Forgo any liquids? Figure out what the best case scenario for you would be.
- Blisters or a wardrobe malfunction: One of the most important rules of racing is not to wear anything new. Wear an outfit you’ve already run or raced in. That way you can avoid unwanted blisters or chafing. If you are wearing an outfit you’re confident in, you’re more likely to have a good race.
- Cramps: Cramps can happen to any runner, professional or not. They can stop you right in your tracks. Did you hydrate enough? Was it hotter than anticipated? Were you muscles loosened up? Once you begin cramping, how will you respond? Will you try and maintain your pace, slow down or move into a walk run? Whatever your plan is, stay confident in it.
- What will you do if you miss a water station or drop a gel: Sometimes you’ll miss a water station or you’ll drop your gel. Practice taking water during your runs. It builds confidence as well as practice makes perfect. At a half marathon a few years ago, my gel exploded all over my face. I only got about 25% of the actual gel into my system. Before then, I hadn’t thought about what I would do if that happened. I panicked of course, and my confidence went right out the window. Now I know, I would alter my water to Gatorade for the last few miles.
- What if you find yourself alone on the course or find yourself in a crowded pack: You never know how crowded a race might be. You might find yourself in a crowded pack of people or all alone. Figure out where you excel. Some runners do better when they are surrounded by other racers, while other runners find they do better running alone. Understand what makes you feel the most confident in your abilities and try and put yourself in that situation when possible.
6) Focus on the things you can control
This is possibly the most important aspect I have learned through racing. Sometimes you will prepare for a race appropriately, execute all of the training well but something out of your hands happens. Maybe it’s pouring rain, or maybe the course had to be changed due to a car accident.
Remember that all of the racers are dealing with the same issue! Approach these problems as you would approach the race if the problem never happened. If you have at least thought about possible scenarios, you are more prepared and more confident if they do happen.