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The mental game of racing

It’s absolutely no secret that many runners are Type-A+ perfectionists. This is why we pore over Runner’s World to determine the latest tips, tricks and voodoo to help us get across the finish line stronger and faster. Some people are up to the challenge and thrive on the mental pressure that can come from the time commitment of training for long-distance races.

I am not one of those people.

Spending months and months training for something that is to transpire over just a few hours in one day has me on edge. What if I don’t reach my goal? What if I fail? What if it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy? This, of course, is all self generated. It is really just a race. This is a hobby and not even close to a career.

So then why do I still feel the pressure?

I think it probably has to do with the fact that if I’m investing time and effort, waking up at ungodly hours, spending time away from my family – I want it to count. I want to reach my goals. There are a few things I do to keep things in perspective:

  • Remember why you started. I started running because I enjoy the time outside and how it lets me be alone in my thoughts. I race because I enjoy the community. Any goals I reach should be icing on the cake.
  • It is just one day. Your performance on one day isn’t a reflection of your entire life. Anyone can have an off day and everyone does at some point. Your friends and family will understand and anyone else probably won’t care.
  • Have a backup plan. Most of the time when I am training intensely for a race, I have a backup race in mind for a few weeks after. This way, if I’m not totally happy with my goal race performance, I know I have another opportunity. This is crucial for me to go into a race not freaked out.
  • Give yourself permission to fail. I have dropped out of two races – one because I was injured and another because I was getting over being sick, it was 90 degrees, and I was just done. Say what you will about my toughness (I know I’m not very tough), but failing in the past makes me less scared of it in the future.


There will always be doubts and nerves before the race – that’s part of the fun. But with a little planning, you can trick your mind into a more positive approach.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing