Mind over matter, and all that stuff ...
Anyone who watched 'Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man' can't fail to have been inspired. Here's a man, a
year older than me, not in the best shape it must be said (!) but with less
than two months training, ran 43 Marathons in 51 days, covering over 1,100
miles. He also ran through much of Wales, Scotland and the Lake District so had
his fair share of hills too.
Attitude is critical when racing (and training) – and the longer the distance, the more mental strength is required. The desire to win, finish well, or just get round is what differentiates us from most of the general population.
Fatigue hits us all in every race - even the shorter distances as this is when you push harder – it’s how you deal with it that gets you through. I’ve read comments like “fatigue
and pain are the monsters, but I train myself to look forward to the monsters
coming because then I can deal with them”. I can’t say I look forward to
fatigue and pain but I understand the sentiment!
Preparation and focus help a lot. Obviously make sure you have trained adequately for the race you’re
doing. And the usual stuff like carb-load the night before (I eat a load of
fruit too). After eating I relax for a while to let my food go down and then have
a good stretch (non-dynamic – more yoga-ish!), and get a decent nights sleep.
In the morning I try to eat two hours before the race start time – porridge
with a spoon of honey and a chopped banana usually and drink a glass or two of
water. Don’t forget to visit the toilet (um, properly!) at least once before leaving the house
– you’ll likely want to go again when you get to the race venue and the
adrenaline starts to kick in too!
Get your heart rate up a few minutes before the race start – swim / jog up and down, chuck in a 15
second sprint or two (having made sure you’re properly stretched and warmed up
– last thing you want is to pull something now!)
Have a quick mental recap of your race plan, but be ready to adapt as the race unfolds. For long
distances – anything over half-Marathons or 1500m swims – I find my mind
drifting and my form, breathing and general rhythm suffering as a result – so I
try to concentrate on both these things as much as I can all the way through.
Try to relax. I used to find I raced quite tense (probably still do!) and got tired more quickly. We
are - at least - natural born runners, so relaxing more in this discipline shouldn’t be too
much of a challenge. For more about this, I’d recommend reading ‘Born To Run’ by Christopher McDougall – enlightening and quite
Don’t get caught out by adrenaline – it’s easy to go off to hard, you’re buzzing and it feels great to
race away but if you start too fast you’ll struggle later in the race – I’ve
had a few Olympic distance Tri's where I’ve had jelly-legs coming off the bike,
and longer running races where I start fading at mile 10 – so keep to you
planned race pace that you’ve practiced during training – so what if people
seem to be flying by you – bet you catch a lot of them up later on! Oh, and if
you train with a HR monitor, then race with it – and try to keep within your
Oh, and backing off the pace now and again is OK, I've free-wheeled on the bike and done a bit of walking in some of my tougher races. Don't do it too often - or for more than about 30 seconds, but don't beat yourself up if you have to take a breather now and again - I fully expect do be taking a few in Lanzarote!
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