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Having A Pre-Race Freakout? Trying Talking To Yourself.

All runners—even elites—have mental freakouts during a hard run or race.

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Photo from Tina Muir
Photo from Tina Muir

*Courtesy of Fuel Your Future with Tina Muir

It is all good saying, “Be your own best friend; love yourself and be kind to yourself,” but lets face it—sometimes it is not so easy to do that. When those voices in your mind are punishing you, what do you do then?

How do you handle those moments? Do elites even have those moments?

HECK YES; I am gonna show you exactly what my mind tells me—lets see if your inner demons are just as cruel.

So what are mental freakouts? These are where some of the following phrases (or type of phrases come into your mind):

Oh my god I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this. I am going to stop. I have such a long way to go, how am I going to make it? …and many, many more nasty, negative comments.

These are the ones you have to work through emotionally. You have to “weather the storm.” These are the ones you do NOT back off (well as much as you can), but instead, reassure yourself that you will be okay, it IS a tough patch, and that is okay, you KNEW there were going to be tough patches.

If you stay strong, repeat mantras and accept that it is just a patch, those waves pass too. This was possibly the biggest lesson I learned in the marathon this time around: When to push and when to take your foot off the pedal.

How do I know I am in a mental freakout? These ones are actually a little easier to categorize and a little easier to control. These are the ones where you start to doubt your ability. That little voice in your head tells you that you are not good enough, that you can’t do this, that you have SUCH a long way to go.

These are the moments where your race comes in jeopardy for another reason. You are about to sabotage yourself and if you are not careful, it can spiral out of control and you will cross the line feeling disappointed and frustrated with your performance.

In the past, I always used to have an argument with myself during these moments: I can’t do this. Why do I do this? I don’t want to do this! This was followed by: YES YOU CAN. BECAUSE YOU DO. YES YOU DO!

It would be an ongoing battle for a few moments while I fought with myself. However, I have realized that just like punishment is never going to be as effective as positive reinforcement, rather than punishing yourself for thinking this way, instead, like a small child, talk to yourself calmly and in a reassuring way.

Tell yourself that you will be okay, and remind yourself that this does not define who you are, no matter what happens, you will still be you. Rather than beating yourself up for having weakness, you are reminding yourself of your strength, which builds your confidence and those nasty demons go back down. In essence, you are being your own best friend. Imagine what your best friend would say to you if they were by your side, or imagine what you would tell your best friend if they were in your place, and you could speak to them directly.

If you do not want to use a best friend, then use your children, your parents, someone who matters to you. You would never yell at them, saying, “YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, YOU ARE WEAK, YOU MIGHT AS WELL GIVE UP NOW.” No, you would say to them, “Come on love, you are doing so well. You got this! Come on, you are strong, you have done the work.”

Why are we so hard on ourselves, but if our loved ones were in the exact same position as us, we would encourage?

By being your own best friend and treating yourself with compassion and appreciation, you are breeding more of it, allowing your confidence to rise up to remind you of what you have trained for, that you have done the hard work and this is the fun part.

Running is mostly mental—we know that—and it doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone has those doubts. But rather than allowing it to defeat you, allow it to remind you to be kind to yourself, the way you would be kind to those you love.

You put yourself through this for a reason, to challenge yourself and see what you can do. Well, you are only going to be able to get there if you believe in your strength, and you can only believe in your strength if you allow yourself to see it.

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