This photo was taken during one of my IRONMAN World Championship races in the early 80’s (I think it was 1984). As was always the case when I raced in Hawaii, I suffered through multiple bad sections during the run.
However, by realizing that these were just “bad patches” — and having purposefully trained to overcome them — I was able to work through these periods of discomfort and (usually) prevail.
Regardless of how fast you swim and bike, you MUST optimize your run if you’re going to perform to your potential. To do so, you require a mental strategy for the run.
Here are my top 5 tips to stay mentally strong during the run to ensure that you finish strong:
- NEVER Plan on the “Survival Mode” During the Run. Too many pros and age groupers actually plan on simply “surviving” the run… this is nonsense! Why would you give yourself permission to have a poor run? Remember recent runs where you may not have started our feeling stellar or, conversely, when you started strong and in both scenarios you rallied and finished under control. Being mindful and in control are the key.
- Break Up the Course into “Mini Races”. During your months leading up to the race, plan on how you’re going to break the course into “mini races”. Recognize that during these segments you’ll likely have a bad patch but concentrate just on that current segment; do not dwell or worry on what lies ahead.
- Keep the Faith That You Will Run Well. Faith breeds the highest probability of success… especially when you’ve done the proper training. Fear of the unknown can mentally smash you and disable a potentially great run day.
- Concentrate on Simple, Controllable Elements. I never had a perfect run and always had numerous bad patches during my IRONMAN races. During a bad patch, I would concentrate on the simple “controllable” race elements: things that were in my power to fix during the remainder of the race. I would continually do a full body inventory and deliberately go through a process of relaxing my forehead, neck, upper back, wiggle my fingers, spread my toes, fire my gluteals and staying focused on being smooth and light. I hardly looked this way……..but this is what I was thinking!
- Quit Feeling Sorry for Yourself on the Run!! A lot of athletes destroy a great day because the allow themselves to feel defeated. As I always say: “Do what you can do at the moment!”
By working on these mental strategies in your training and during your race, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.