How to overcome mental block?!

Hi all,

I ran my first 10k yesterday - it was a tough one (lots of hills and a VERY hot day!) - and so my time wasn't exactly what I had hoped for.

However, as much as the heat and the hills didn't help, I could have done much better if my mind had been in a better place - I started off thinking "this is going to be really hard, I'm not sure I can do it", by the 7k mark I was thinking "I can't do this, it's too hard" and by the end I had had a couple of 'breakdowns' with tears and thinking "I really can't do this" and ended up walking most of the last kilometre, although I know I had the energy to keep running.

So my questions is this - how do you get yourself into that postiive state of mind when you're just not feeling it? Does telling yourself 'I can do this' over and over actually work? It all seems a bit too cheesy to actually work. How can I overcome this? Suggestions most welcome!

Thanks image



  • For me it's been having a target at the end of my training.

    If there was nothing at the end i could imagine feelng how you do.  But I booked a race before I started running image That way I have had a target since day 1.  So I never felt like that it's always been my plan says i have to do x.... so I do x like it or not.

  • Well done on finishing, it sounds like you really went through it on that run.

    If it makes you feel any better, I personally think that positive thinking gets a whole lot easier once you have had that terribly difficult run - in a "things can only get better from here" or "at least this run isn't as bad as that run" kind of way.

    I always thought the whole "I can do this" thing seemed a little cheesy, but it really does work. Try picturing the most inspiring person in your life, or remembering your reasons for running in the first place, anything to distract you from that little negative voice telling you to stop. Everyone has that voice, the trick is to find a way to block it out or tell it to shut up! I sometimes picture my kids cheering me on, as they wouldn't care if I walked or took a break, they would be thrilled to bits just to see me out there enjoying myself. Things can get a little emotional there though so as  a backup I sometimes picture my ex and the names he used to call me because of my weight - you can't beat a bit of smugness to get you up the steep hills!

    I read another really useful tip in a book recently; a woman reached the halfway point in a 10k and felt like she couldn't go on, so she started counting backwards in her head from 5000 - in theory she was counting down the metres left to run, but she only had to do it for a short time as it provided a distraction until she got her second wind. I have used this on difficult runs and it also really helps.

    I hope these are of some use to you. Remember, it doesn't matter what state you were in when you finished, or that you walked part of the way, you still did it and you should feel really proud of yourself. The next one will be even better!

  • Well done on your run...You're better than me, I still can't pluck up courage to enter a 10k! Sounds like you put a lot of mental pressure on yourself during the race. So much of running is about mental training, as well as the physical.

    Physical stress can release emotions too - the tension's got to go somewhere and having a cry is sometimes the result; some people feel an overwhelming sense of depression too during physical exertion.

    Now I know I've no experience of racing, just running, however I find it helps to break the route down. I've coping methods like mapping out where I'm running and focusing on getting to that point rather than thinking of the entire distance. So 'through this bit of wood' I focus, then onto the next landmark etc. Also I take my mind off the actual running by thinking about other things.. sometimes these are a bit like dreams, they're really random. Known as blocking techniques, I believe.

  • Thanks so much everyone.

    There are some great tips in there (love the counting backwards one, and will try mapping out the route too), and also some very encouraging words. All most appreciated image

    I'm definitely feeling a bit better about it all now. I suppose I should be proud that I tried! Wouldn't have been able to do anything like that a year ago image

  • I know it sounds daft, but i just keep telling myself its all in my head, and my legs could go on and on! I do a little mental check on my legs and ask myself if they are fine to keep going? the answer is always "yes" so i ask myself why i need to stop? ...Its a silly little thing, but it works for me!image

    We have all had that one awful run, we would rather forget, but just chalk it up to experiance image



  • "Once the weakness has gone all thats left is the strength" "Not failed before this won't be the first time" "The mind gives up long before the body needs to"

    Not sure if these will help but when I am doing a LSR they get me through the hard bits...image


  • Go yourself a break. This was your first race so you are on the first rung of the learning curve. Lesson one - a hot day can really slow you down. Time to prepare to beat your PB in your next race on a cooler day.
  • I have stolen my friend's mantra for when LSR get tough there will be times when I think I can't do it but I will have the rest of my life knowing I did. That seems to work for me yet to determine if works for actual events.

    Oh and doing Maths in my head helps me block the negative thoughts. How many days to Christmas? How old am I exactly in years, weeks days? But that might be just me!


  • I really struggle with this I must admit and I still have races now where I struggle if I start badly.

    I either try and keep a song in my head and sing the same line over again when I feel negative thoughts creeping in something like Queens "Don't stop me now" ( proper cheesy I know)

    I do try to set off with positive thoughts though and I must admit my best races have been the ones that I don't have any expectations of myself and I just think Oh well if I get round without crying or image then its a bonus. You will get there eventually. I find a lot of running is in the mind.

  • Oh and there is no shame in walking a bit.

  • Thanks again all. Very much appreciated! I shall try some of these methods on my run tonight image

  • Crimson  - ever since reading your post about doing maths, I have been trying to calulate my age in weekdays....not just when running, but all the time! Thanks for that! image

  • I thought the maths tip was for something else??
  • oh. you mean like a man thing?

  • Think I have learned more than I needed to know there!
  • Big_GBig_G ✭✭✭
    OT, but I was lined up at the start of a 10K a couple of weeks ago and there was a young woman crying her eyes out, in her running gear. She was there with her boyfriend (who was also running) and he was trying to console her, but she was just getting worse and worse. I'm assuming it was her first run, she had been training for x months and in her mind all the training and come to that moment just before the race and she couldn't cope. It impacts people in different ways I suppose.

    She did finish though, and she looked incredibly relieved/happy at the end image

    This is no help whatsoever to the OP, but anyway....
  • Big_G - that definitely IS a help to me! Good to know I'm not the only one out there who bawls my eyes out like that!! Now I feel slightly less silly image

  • Funky - every run will give you more confidence.  It takes time and perseverance, but there's a runner in all of is, and we just have to bring it out.  Back in high school days I was always third last in any race (two very fat guys behind me...), couldn't run to save myself.  With perseverance it was suggested to me in 2006 that I run a 20k race.  I'd never run properly before, thought it was madness, but entered for a laugh.  Got a 2:12 with a lot of walking towards the end, but was amazed to finish it.  Fast forward and I'm (all being well on the day with weather etc) in the right place to beat my marathon PB of 3:59 in Berlin at the end of this month.

    It's not a fast time by some people's standards, but it's more than I ever dreamt I was capable of achieving.  Running 5k was "impossible" to me years ago, but now I'm running marathons.  Sounds silly to say, but if I can do it, any bugger can...  you did your first 10k, and I wager it's not your last (or your fastest)!

  • Funky, doing recent marathon, on way up day before, I listed all sorts of positive words, phrases, little game. So words like

    focused, Be brilliant, steel eyed, concentrate, awesome... Big list of 15-20.

    Read the list a few times, and then on the day before start.

    During the run, it really helped, literally had programmed myself to filter out negatives and keep going. It also gave me a few stray odd thoughts, a little funny.

    I also had a mantra.

    More here if you want the full details.

    Much like strunner, I can remember not being able to do 5k in under 35-40 minutes on a treadmill. With a bit of will power, amazing what you can do.

    Strunner, good luck in 3 weeks. Might be some tips in there for you, print a pace band!
  • Hi peeps just wanted to throw a few words in...

    Funky - The brain is the hardest muscle to train! Most of your running will be in your head, you can feel fantastic but if your mind isn't focused your done.

    My biggest advice is to learn to enjoy running, it makes the longer runs easier because you WANT to do them!

    Grab some inspiring books..."Born to Run" is a must!

    I started out struggling to do a 5k a year ago, I now run 13 miles as training because I want to! I just read loads of books and got hooked! Im now training for my first marathon which im going to do on my birthday in December, not as an event, just on my own, then training moves on ready for next August when I will be doing my first 50 mile Ultra marathon! image

    I stripped my running down and started from nothing and spent alot of time trying to work on my running form......still working on it but thats part of the fun! image

    I now run in sandals after spending the best part of a year moving to minimal footwear.

    I know all of this looks like a bost but it is really not ment as that its all just ment as food for thought....consider this...

    Has anyone ever taught you how to run?     No?   Me too!

    Read loads and it will help you to be inspired to run, help you to focus and hopefully help you cut through a lot of the rubbish that is around!

    WOW ok I seem to be writing a book of my own here so I shall shut up! image

  • Please do
  • Funky,I have been running for 3 years now and also take part in league races as part of a team. My last race was a disaster,I started off badly and convinced myself I couldn't do it. I nearly gave up halfway and had stopped at the Marshall point and burst into tears. My team mate was behind me and dragged me round the rest of the race where I got to the end and was crying so much I could hardly breathe. I honestly felt such a tit but everyone was so supportive and my next run was far better. Keep going and never give up.

  • I just wanted to say that this has been a very encouraging and positive thread, many thanks to Funky and all who have shared their ideas and experiences.

  • cheers Sussex runner....always nice to have a positive comment to brighten your day

  • Warkie wrote (see)

    "Once the weakness has gone all thats left is the strength" "Not failed before this won't be the first time" "The mind gives up long before the body needs to"

    Not sure if these will help but when I am doing a LSR they get me through the hard bits...image


    l dont know about anything else but that there has really struck a cord with me and will be what l recite in my head when l go out for my big run at the weekend.

  • Hi all!

    Just to update you - I took all your suggestions to heart and ran another 10k on Sunday. I still felt nervous (may have had a little cry beforehand!), but took a breath, and just went for it....and managed to knock 8 1/2 minutes off my time! I ran faster than I ever thought possible for me, and felt great doing it....even on the big, long hill.

    So, big thanks to you all for your help! Bring on the next race image

  • Yay, well done. That's fantastic.

    I can't remember where I borrowed it from but I use the mantra "I am running fast and strong" as it seems to fit into my stride pattern.

    Good on ya. You should be really proud of yourself. 

  • Funky thats fantastic. Well done. Im so glad this one was better for you. Onwards and upwards.

  • Been reading your thread Funky, really chuffed for you - you can keep building on the positivity your last run produced for you.

    It really is an interesting one though, what drives runners on when evrything hurts, personally, i think the pain actually fuels my determination to succeed. that and not wanting to look like a right chump!

  • Woo! Fantastic time!

    I find that mentally writing a race report helps as I'm going along. I also find that even if I feel like there's no way I'll keep running while I'm actually in a race, the rose-tinted specs go on straight afterwards and I'm convinced I had a brilliant race and enjoyed it!

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