Author: Benita Willis | February 7, 2018

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Racing is simple. Pain is inevitable and you will always be presented with the same two choices: give in or dig in.

Of course, the obvious answer would be the dig in, but in the middle of the race when every inch of your body is in agonising pain and the little voices in your head are screaming at you to stop, it can be so tempting to just give up. This is where the mentally tough athletes are separated from the weak, and the ones who finish the race feeling satisfied are separated from the ones who feel disappointed for not trying harder. So, what can you do to improve your mental toughness the next time you toe the line to race?


  1. Use mantras

It may sound corny, but repeating a few inspirational quotes or sayings to yourself can give you the extra strength you need to get through a run. Tapping into the power of words will ensure that your mindset remains positive and will give you the motivation to remain strong. When you start to fatigue and your focus begins waning, concentrating on a simple quote and repeating it over and over can distract you from how much you are hurting and the little voice telling you to quit. Here are a few mantras that you can try repeating to yourself the next time you head out to run:

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Pain is temporary, pride is forever.

No pain, no gain.

It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Just keep running.

The quicker you run, the quicker you’re done.

Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.


  1. Break the race into smaller chunks

Running long distance races can often seem daunting, and it is so easy in a race to become overwhelmed by how far you have left to run. For example, if you are running a marathon and start to feel uncomfortable after 10km, you will most likely start panicking about how on earth you will be able to run for another 32km and doubt will start to flood through you which will ultimately hurt your race. This is why it can help to break the race up into smaller distances that you know you can manage. Focus on getting through one kilometre at a time and tell yourself that all you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of another for the next kilometre.


  1. Remember the ‘why’

We all have goals, but the only way to achieve them when the going gets tough is to remember why you have those goals. If your goal is to run a marathon, ask yourself why you want to do it. Is it for health or weight loss reasons? Is it to inspire friends and family? Or, is it simply a challenge so that you can be the best version of yourself? Knowing why you are racing will help you stay focussed on your goals and will give you the strength to carry on in the more difficult stages of the race. So, every time you line up to race, remind yourself of what exactly it is you are running for and you will be surprised at just how much that will improve your mental game.


  1. Remind yourself of all the hard work you have done

When you line up to race, you will have undoubtedly completed many tough training runs to get to where you are. It is important that you remind yourself of every sacrifice you have made and every session that you pushed through despite wanting to give up and stop. Every step you ran in training will have made you a stronger runner, so reminding yourself of all the work you have done will give you the confidence you need to believe in yourself and know that you are capable of anything. It will also help motivate you to prove that every early morning run you dragged yourself out of bed for was worth it.