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 mental shutdown during races

Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 37

mental shutdown during races Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 11:18 am 

I sometimes have trouble avoiding a mental shutdown during races, and I'm looking for ways to help stay focused. I believe race success is only 50% physical, and the rest is in your head. My problem is that near the end when the race gets tough, I stop caring about the race or my finish time, and just want to slow down and end the pain. After I finish, I kick myself for not pushing harder. And I *know* I could push harder. At one race where I misjudged the finish line, I kept up my "finishing sprint" for 3 times farther than I thought I possibly could.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Long Island, NY
Joined: 10 Dec 2004
Posts: 80

Re: mental shutdown during races Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 12:46 pm 

Believe me, you're not alone. I think my problem is that I don't race that often (3-4 per year) and therefore have a hard time deciding what pace to run. All too often my pace is too aggressive and I have nothing left for the end. This is especially true with the 3 marathons I've run. One I had something left in the tank and the other two I was spent by mile 22. I find that running a marathon a year is nothing more than an experiment. Even worse, the conditions are never the same which is just another variable to contend with. At least you can run shorter races more frequently and thus get used to the distance.

Even with all of that, I don't believe I have the mental toughness to grind out a good finish. To be honest, if you are properly trained, I think the mental aspect is far greater than 50%. In the marathons one thing I have tried in the last 5 miles is to visualize my daily 5 miles running route. I do this because those last 5 miles seem much longer than the earlier miles. In theory this should work but so far it hasn't. I'd be interested in hearing what other people do to tough out a strong finish.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: mental shutdown during races Posted: Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:37 pm 

I'm not a sprinter, but from what I've heard, a top-class miler will generally be on the verge of passing out or vomiting at the finish. I also once witnessed a woman next to me vomit at the finish of a 5K. Not that it should be your goal to make yourself sick, but I think that demonstrates the extemes to which some people are able to push themselves. How do they do it? I wish I knew. The only "trick" I've ever heard for late in the race is to look for people ahead of you that you can reel in and pass. There are probably techniques you can practice for increasing your pain tolerance too, but I can't imagine they're very pleasant.

Runworks 2005 5M Racer
Rochester, NY
Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 262

Re: mental shutdown during races Posted: Wed Dec 15, 2004 8:27 am 

What was Mark Wetmore's line before a hard workout in "Running with the Buffaloes"? "If you're not all puking by the end of this workout, you weren't working hard enough"?! No thanks! I did finally manage to run my first marathon without any walking breaks this past October, and that was no mean feat for me. I'd always fallen prey to the "just a little break, I don't really care anymore" spectre that you mention in prior races. In 5k's I always have trouble maintaining pace in mile 2. I've just concluded that I'm weak and have a low pain threshold! Thus, in my case I think I just have to be overprepared in terms of training so that achieving goals is a shoe-in rather than a stretch.

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