A friend of mine who is preparing to race her first ever Ironman triathlon begged me to come home from my recent race (Ironman Canada) with tips to share. And while there are any number of useful tidbits related to each leg of the swim-bike-run event, the best advice I can give anyone – whether competing in a triathlon, a running race or any other challenging venture – is to smile.

In fact, this advice was passed on to me by an athlete friend many years ago. His theory was simple: even if you feel absolutely horrid, if you smile while running, the crowds will immediately kick in with corroborative cheers of “Looking strong!”, “What a smile!”, “She’s feeling great!” Hearing this response from spectators truly has a reverse psychology effect – you begin to feel as strong as they perceive you to feel, which in turn enables you to pick up your pace, clean up your running form and smile a more genuine smile. It’s a simple but miraculous tool which I try and remember to employ in every race – and trust me, it works. During the marathon leg of my Ironman, I felt as though I had an other-worldly grin ear-to-ear, and the crowds responded. Granted, during the final miles I’m guessing my smile twisted into more of a growl or grimace as I fought the clock to reach the line in my goal time, but I managed to reach it and post my fastest Ironman marathon split to date. And now I’m smiling even more!