My next race is this Saturday (April 27) and it’s a new one for me: the Waynesboro, Virginia Park to Park half marathon. Here’s what drew me in:
“Gentle rolling hills, mountain vistas and beautiful serene river crossings make this road course a must-do spring race.”
Sounds lovely, right? Well, I may have romanticized it a bit in my head. I imagine a lush mountain setting: stunning views — vistas, even; trickling creeks; winding mountain roads; and a foggy Virginia morning to start the day.
I’m sure once I’m actually out there, you’ll hear me saying a select string of curse words about what they consider “gentle rolling hills” and what I consider torture.
Do you find that you create the same kind of build-up to race day versus running the actual course? I have this tendency to build it all up, then when it skews from what I imagined — or, really, when I have that “off” day that every runner experiences — I get frustrated. Frustrated that maybe I didn’t train well enough. Frustrated that I’m not as prepared as I planned to be. Frustrated that, oh I don’t know, I’m not wearing better socks.
I think as runners we have just enough Type A in us that those little nuances of what makes a good and bad run really seem to get to us when it matters most, like on race day.
But in reality, they are walls. Walls we build up and can certainly break down ourselves. They are mostly mental blocks and if we can just push past them, we will succeed. I probably start to see the bricks of that wall at the beginning of any run. I always find the first one or two miles to be the worst because it takes that distance to sink into the right rhythm.
After that, maybe that carefully chosen playlist takes over, or you just sink into the cadence of your footsteps and your breathing begins to level out.
For me, this lasts for a while, but during a longer race, I struggle just after the halfway point. I feel fatigue and start questioning if I went out too fast or if I got enough sleep or if ate enough that morning. It’s a mental game: a mental wall I can sometimes push past, but sometimes not.
So how do you push down this wall on race day — or during any run or general bad day, for that matter?
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