Mentally Preparing for the Half

I’m 2 weeks away from my next half marathon. I’m having those thoughts.. “Am I ready?,” ‘Will I do well?,” “Will I even finish?” I think we all go through the same emotional and mental roller coaster upon approaching a big race. After all, it’s not just a physical endeavor, it’s a mental game.

It’s 5:15 AM… My alarm is going off and I’m lying there, comfortable and warm, happy and sleepy, making the decision, “do I get up and go, or do I sleep some more?” Sigh…

Obviously, as a runner, my choice should be “get up you fool! It’s beautiful outside and you need to train!” But frequently for me and many of us, that obvious choice gets clouded by our own mentality and desire to just give up for the day and stay in bed. My advice: Don’t Do That.

Get Up! Get out of bed, get out of the house and get going. It’s your mind that needs to change to get you to the finish line.

(I’ve never regretted a beautiful sunrise run.. ever.)

Running Half Marathons is a mental game. It’s a mental game for beginners as well as veteran, experienced runners. Not only about getting out of bed in the morning, or lacing up your shoes whatever time of day you run, mentally preparing to run 13.1 miles is about your motivation, your mindset and your ultimate love for running. I’ve run a lot of these things. I’m 44 and I still battle with myself about getting it done, approaching the start line with confidence and grace and not sabotaging myself with lack of confidence.

I honestly just want to finish, just like all of you. Practically, I know I will. I’ve finished every race I’ve ever participated in, but mentally there is always that sense of doubt, “what if I don’t get this done?” “What if I have a stinky run?” Ok.. so what?

We all battle with ourselves before and during races. It’s a thing. You’re not alone. Running long distances is a mind/body/soul sport. Have a plan and get yourself psyched. You can do this.

My personal Achilles Heel when I race is mile 9. That is when I start to question everything. “Why am I doing this?” “I could just stop now..” “My left hip hurts and you know, I could just stop.” Mile 9. Ah, my “favorite mile.”   I think we all have those moments when we want to give up, and our brains are telling us it’s ok, but not our hearts. Our hearts want to finish that race!  Listen to your heart and keep going. (Unless of course your body is hurt or not functioning properly, or you need to use the port-o-potty, which by all means, please stop and rest and take care of that business. No one likes a marathon pooper.) Somehow my heart tells my brain to be quiet and I make it to mile 13.1. (Having someone there waiting for you helps too. It always gets me to the finish line because I don’t want to let my family down by not crossing.)  My point is this: We all have issues in our heads with achieving goals. It’s how positive you can be that helps you achieve it. Whether it’s your first race or your 100th, set your sights on the goal and it will be your accomplishment, not just your dream.

Set small goals leading up to the race and also during the race.

“I’ll train Monday, Wedenesday, Friday and Sunday” And then DO IT.

(If you don’t, you’re only human. Get back up and try again.)

“I can run to mile 5!” Then set another.. “I’ll make it to 9!” Then another.. “I can finish this thing!”

Well my running friends, just remember is that YOU WILL FINISH. You will cross that line, even if it’s in a van. It’s just a race and there will always be another. All you can do is train to the best of your ability, eat right, get rest, and show up on race day with a good attitude. Whether it’s for a medal, a hug, a personal goal, to share the moment with friends, set your heart and mind on finishing your half marathon and it will happen for you! Smiling helps too.

Tips for a good mental run:

  1. Train regularly. Try not to skip training days and sleep in. Your body will thank you at mile 9!
  2. Eat right. Fuel your body with good, wholesome foods, especially the week of the race.
  3. Hydrate! Before you run, not only during it. Try not to overeat or drink alcohol the night before.
  4. Sleep well.. lots of rest matters.
  5. Stretch.. Yoga and stretching will give you the “leg up” mentally and physically. Focus your mind.
  6. Have a friend or loved one at the finish line.. get there for that hug!
  7. Smile when you run and say hello to all of your fellow runners. A positive atmosphere will make you happier and want to run longer. Someone else might need that smile or High-5 too!
  8. Run at your pace, not someone else’s. You can regulate your mental condition better if you aren’t out of breath or your heart rate is too high.
  9. Make sure to use the bathroom before the race and have a good personal plan for yourself while running. It’s ok to stop.
  10. Remember WE ARE ALL THE SAME.. Everyone else around you is probably thinking the same thing as you.. running is a personal yet communal sport, and is a sport of friends.


By: Joanne Gervais Ainsworth


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