Half the battle in long distance races are the mind games and convincing your self not to stop or slow down. Yesterday I ran a 10mi race and after about 5mi I really thought about stopping; I pulled myself together a bit and didn't stop but did slow down and missed out on my target time for the race. Just wondering how you lot cope with the mental battles in these races when trying to maintain a pace whilst your body/head is saying "NO MORE!".


  • You have to decide if you can live with being a quitter.  Quitters never win, hence they're losers.

  • I think you need to tell everyone what your target is before the race rather than swanning round going 'might do a race on Sunday, don't know if I can be arsed yet'. Then you'd run it knowing you've got to impress us.

  • You need to listen to 'Young the Giant' song 'My Body' about twenty times the night before a race and have the chorus buzzing around in your head.

    I also always find that the second quarter and start of third quarter of any race (and a lot of training runs) is always the toughest mentally and its helpful just to recognise that as it is a good way to kid yourself that it is going to get easier!

  • I failed the British Army medical, despite my mile and a half run time being down to 9.5 minutes. I find this fear of further failure to be a motivating factor. My missus often jokes that I put myself through Hell trying to prove a point that doesn't exist and that no-one but me cares about, but she's a bitch

    Also, I love the knowledge that my body is capable of carrying itself over difficult terrain in a short period of time, it gives me a bit of an ego boost knowing how stronger and fitter I am than the dog-walkers and ramblers that I blast past on the trail, and how they would struggle to do what I can do.

    All of which makes me sound like a real arrogant jerk.....I assure you i'm not (unless you're hogging the trail!)

    • Visualise crossing the finish line and the celebrations associated with it.
    • If you feel like you need to slow down then agree with yourself that you will for a certain number of steps and then speed up again.
    • If really bad count in batches of 50 or 100 steps to keep your mind occupied.
    • Identify someone ahead of you that's going your speed and keep pace with them.  Or as works for me find someone ahead with a nice bum and keep following it!
    • Build a house in your head: lay the foundations, do the brick work etc.  Just as a distraction technique.
    • Run backwards or sideways for a while.  When you turn back it'll feel very different as your muscles will have stretched out differently.
    • Push your hips forward and straighten your posture, relax you shoulders and make sure you are swinging your arms well.  Posture effects out state.  If you are tired you end up hunching, so if you force yourself to straighten and open up you'll begin to feel fresher.


  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    thanks Mr B...I will try some of those, except for maybe the running backwards bit!

  • I done a 31 miler yesterday in sandals. I have a blood blister on each of my heels covering all of it. I cannot walk very well today. But during the whole event it didn't cross my mind that I was going to quit. The reason for this is that I have done the distance before and I know I can do it. Also I have learned from experience how to race a 50k by doing them. I have a 56 miler next month. Never gone beyond a 50k and no doubt towards the end of that my brain will be screaming at me to stop, but I know I cant! Just because I can't. No other reason! But when I do this 56 miler I will learn from it and take it into another race perhaps a 100k. When I am doing the next 100k I will be thinking...well I've done this before etc image

    is the 10 miler the furthest you have run? Also setting your self times to beat if it was your first time at 10 miles is setting yourself up to struggle. It was the first time ever I set a time goal for myself yesterday but I cam short by 15 minutes, but it didn't bother me as i am not there for any other reason but to enjoy myself image

    I think it comes down to experience and knowing how to finish a race.

  • Vicar - I don't think it's his first time, he's just a bit of a lazy b*****d.

  • TheVicar wrote (see)

    I done a 31 miler yesterday in sandals.

    This may seem a bizarre question - but why did you run 31 miles in sandals? I think for the ultimate in discomfort flip flops is probably the way to goimage

  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    Vicar...I have ran up to marathon distance; and I normally am pretty good at keeping a constant pace and staying focused and  fighting these mental battles etc's just you know, you get faster, and you try and get PBs etc....but in the meantime you are getting older...and it's starting to hurt more and more and you start to question more and more why the hell you are doing all this...

    This wasn't my A race, but I (quietly) thought I'd try and do the 10mi under 1 hour. After 5mi though I just thought that I really wanted to stop, and as it was a lap race I could easily quit and not have to walk far to the finish...I even thought I could pretend I'd ran the whole thing and just sit down somewhere. I could even cheat and win the thing! (maybe next time).

    Anyway, I carried on....but I kind've gave up on the pace and the target by halfway. Not sure how much of all this is mental and how much is physical...bit of both I guess.

    Also - very impressive running 31miles in sandals...but why 31miles? and why sandals??

  • Why not 31 miles in sandals is the question I think you should both be asking, 15W & Skinny.

  • It was a 50k and I wasn't going to win so I was first sandal finisher image I got sod all to show for it only feet that look like they hav been chewed by a crocdile.

    15West you were just having a bad day! Nothing up with that. If you were an elite athlete having a bad day they usually throw in the towel. But in saying that they probably didn't pay the astronomical entrance fees image

    Plus if I am in doubt during a run I just eat cake image

  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    Not sure if it was a bad day as such..more likely my target goal was just too aggresive.

    oh...and well done on your being the first sandal finisher! (also - are you really a vicar?).

    Anyway, back to the original question - top tips for mind games during long distance running events the past I have just counted which seemed to help a bit.

  • Reading what you wrote before I just don't think you really wanted your target enough - I ran a race recently, first one back after an injury and whilst I was running a PB I held back from puking over the line effort simply because when it started really hurting I knew deep down that I would run better in a few weeks so what was the point.

    Mentally it's hard for your brain to overcome facts like that when all the other information heading its way is telling it to slow down.

  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    you may well be right SFF. I also might not be as fast as I think I am...

  • MillsyMillsy ✭✭✭
    15 West. I think you answered a bit of your question when you said that it wasn't your "A" race.
  • My last half mara I spent most of the second half having to force myself to keep going when I wanted to stop and walk for a bit. I knew if I let myself walk once then I would stop again, and again etc. So I said, no, I'm not walking. But then a few mins later I'd find myself thinking, "I could walk..." and so the mental conversation happened again. I still think the only way I didn't stop and walk was by not letting myself the first time.

  • Well I'm a trainee vicar lol

    I find that the (I dont mean this in a derogatory way) shorter races that are quicker so like your 10k or your HM I do find that I am flagging a lot more because I am pushing myself and all the way through I am thinking stop. It takes a lot more out of me doing a HM than say a 50k. I think its because you run on your limits at a shorter race but longer stuff you do tend to hold off a bit. dunno

  • When I want to walk in a race (or a training run, for that matter), I tell myself that I could walk but that it will just take longer to finish!

    I have been known to bail out in multi-lap events, so I try to avoid them.

  • It sounds to me like you would do better to stick to shorter races?

    Either that or practice your pacing, if the second half of your races are generally significantly slower than the first you are being over-optimistic with your pace. I would agree with comments above particularly the counting steps but I focus on counting to 10 not 50.

    For a good book on the mental aspects of training and racing try 'Zen and the Art of Running' by Larry Shapiro

  • I don't really agree with sticking to shorter races, I think 15W does all right at the long stuffimage

    For me it happens in distances that I am not well trained for (5k, 10k), and particularly where I may have over egged the early pace. This years 10k Dorney Dash was a good case for me - it loops past the finish and I had to talk myself into not stopping. On that one I reluctantly dropped the pace as I knew I had got it wrong, but managed a small pb.

    I don't have any special techniques. I tried the stick approach as shouting at myself Srgt Major style (in my headimage) . For the counting thing I Count to 60 and see how close I can get it to an actual minute off the watch.

    One thing you could do is slow to an almost crawl, grab your hamstring and limp for a bit, then once some slower runners have gone by, run them down image

  • literatin wrote (see)

    I think you need to tell everyone what your target is before the race rather than swanning round going 'might do a race on Sunday, don't know if I can be arsed yet'. Then you'd run it knowing you've got to impress us.

    Although probably (at least partly) tongue in cheek, this is actually something I do. Feels much easier to keep pushing and suffering the pain than to begin to concoct the excuses!

    I've employed Also-ran's Sgt Major tactic as well, though have had some startled looks as I've not always kept it purely in my head! Along similar lines, I encouraged another runner to 'come with me' in my last race as I caught him and put in an effort spurt up an incline - he didn't, but the cajoling of him seemed to have a similar effect on me as the bollockings I'd given myself in previous races.

    And I am of course far too much of a gent to ever use Mr B's tactic of being spurred on by the pursuit of an attractive behind...or at least to admit to it...cough.

  • Attractive behind or not, it does seem that lots of male runners use the women towards the front of the race as targets to try and keep up with and/or overtake, even if just because there aren't as many so they stand out.

    Bob - 15W really was doing that - he was claiming he hadn't decided whether to bother or not three days before! And no mention of his secret target till afterwards.

  • literatin wrote (see)

    Attractive behind or not, it does seem that lots of male runners use the women towards the front of the race as targets to try and keep up with and/or overtake, even if just because there aren't as many so they stand out.

    Bob - 15W really was doing that - he was claiming he hadn't decided whether to bother or not three days before! And no mention of his secret target till afterwards.

    Male vanity in not wanting to be 'chicked' probably comes into it too!

    As for 15W - well there you are then. What sort of preparation is that to prepare for attacking a target? He's doing it all wrong..............said the 43 minute 10k runner about the 61 minute 10 miler! image

  • 15West15West ✭✭✭

    I couldn't see any female bottoms...just lots of sweaty middle aged male bottoms....and try as I might I couldn't keep up with them.

    ...and I was undecided whether to run this race up until a few days before; but once there you have to have a target don't you??

  • I am a fairly unsociable quiet old codger. I fight my mental battles before I start. There is never any question of stopping voluntarily unless to prevent permanent injury. In training I never allow myself to let myself off the hook. I always say how long or how far I will run and do it. I find that during races there always seems to be a sticky patch and here I enlist the help of other runners until I am through it.  Not much point in starting off if you are going to waste all those hours of training because you hit a sticky patch.

Sign In or Register to comment.