I sometimes ask myself, what goes through my head whilst I’m racing? How is it I stay in the zone from start to finish? Do I think about how my body feels? What did the course look like? Well, quite frankly, I don’t know.
When racing my mindset seems to go through stages. This varies from race to race, and from kilometre to kilometre. On a good day, nothing goes through my head other than the race ahead. From the get go, it is me, my body, and the race ahead. My thoughts are so fixated on pushing and giving it my all that I don’t need to have any other thoughts in my head. I find this happens most frequently when I go into a race feeling as relaxed as possible.
Other times it isn’t quite this simple. It takes a lot more than thinking about ‘nothing’ to get you through the race. It’s a game of self-motivation from start to finish. As cheesy as it sounds, you spend the whole race telling yourself ‘you can do it’, ‘you are strong enough’, and ‘you have done all the hard training’. This is ok though, and completely natural. It happens to all of us. Some of the time you need to motivate yourself to get through the race. It doesn’t always go as planned, and you don’t always feel perfect, but it is important to think whatever you need to in order to race your best. Sometimes I even have to write short messages on my hand to remind myself I can do it. Occasionally, I won’t even look at the writing, but other times I do, and it reassures me of all the hard work I have put in.
During other races my thoughts are much more sporadic, with extremely random thoughts going through my head. I may temporarily become fixated on the colour of the trainers the person in front of me is wearing. Then my mind briefly wonders, thinking about where they came from or whether they are comfortable or not. This doesn’t last long. The random thoughts aren’t long enough to distract me. My attention is soon brought back to the race and the importance of pushing myself as much as possible. However, sometimes it’s not long before another random thought fills my head. This is also ok. You don’t have to be completely fixated on the race and nothing else. If your mind is wondering, don’t worry about it, go with it. Just don’t forget where you are and keep pushing yourself.
Do I take in the surroundings? Most of the time the answer is, not at all. I tend to get to the end of a race and my mum says, ‘What a pretty course, what did it look like out there?’. My answer is always, I don’t know. I never take in the surroundings when I’m running, let alone racing. Sometimes it seems like a shame, when we visit so many places doing different races and never take in what is around us. However, we don’t have time to. If I did take in the surroundings, I would probably not have been giving it my all. If I am pushing my body to the limit, the view around me is the last of my concerns.
One thing that is key, that I am so thankful to have gotten out of, is the negative mindset I found myself adopting during races. This helps no one, especially not you. Nothing positive ever came out of being negative. I would become bogged down in the mindset that I wasn’t strong enough and I couldn’t finish the race, despite all the hard training and dedication I had put in. Negative thoughts can be extremely destructive especially when racing. Admittedly, I was in a poor place mentally and physically at this time, which is why my thoughts were negative. If you are finding this, don’t be afraid to take some time out from racing. Your mental health is so much more important. Allow yourself time to recuperate and relax before racing again.
As I get to the end of the race, my thoughts are at the finish line. When you are giving it all you have, the finish line only seems to get further and further away. The only thing going through my head at this point is ‘get me to the end’. I am giving it all I have, there is no space for any other thoughts. Racing can take a lot of concentration and can be mentally tiring as you are working your entire body. The best races are the ones when you have given it your all, no matter what this may be time or place wise.
Remember there is no set mindset when racing. Just because I tend to think about nothing or tell myself motivational quotes, doesn’t mean this is how everyone should think. Do whatever works for you!
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I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!