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Train your pain not to 'hurt' you when racing


A view of the start of the SSE Airtricity Dublin Race Series Half Marathon. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

A view of the start of the SSE Airtricity Dublin Race Series Half Marathon. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE


A view of the start of the SSE Airtricity Dublin Race Series Half Marathon. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

I brought my children to a cross-country race in Skerries and was amazed how nervous some children were before their races.

It's common for runners to get a little uptight before racing but irrational panic in the build-up can undermine running goals.

There is a fine line, however, between normal nervousness and letting anxiety get the better of you. If you get over-anxious it can put a damper on the enjoyment of racing and significantly hinder your performance.

Most runners worry and focus solely on the physical components of training, but do very little on the mental and emotional preparation.

Focus on the things you can control and don't worry about the things you can't. You can't control the weather on race day. You can't control if your competitors have a great race or the actual outcome of your race. You can, though, control your own physical and mental preparation.

Use a positive mantra that you can easily remember. I used to say to myself, 'the faster I run the quicker I'll be finished'.

For some runners, nerves result from an increasing fear of failure. I believe a lot of people expect too much of themselves. You should go into a race with the frame of mind that you are going to give it 100pc.

By doing this it helps ease the nerves and allows you to find success and positives from every race.

Concentrate on taking long deep breaths. This will lower your heart rate and will help you concentrate, instead of wasting energy. Instead of psyching yourself out, think of racing as a reward for all the hard training you've put in. This will remove the stress from the event and put your race-day focus back where it should be, on having fun.

Some runners try to lessen their anxiety by treating a race like just another training session.

Don't do this as our bodies need a good taper prior to race day. This facilitates the muscle repair and glycogen required for the race.

Some people postpone racing until they reach 'peak condition'.

Remember racing is part of the journey towards a 'peak condition' and it make us stronger both psychologically and physically.

Stick to your usual routine and do things that make your relax by taking your mind off the race.

Great performances come when you are relaxed and confident.

It's tempting to go out hard for the first 400m and this can really make a race very uncomfortable and you won't get the most out of yourself.

Know your limits and stick with a pace that you know you are going to be able to maintain so that you don't go into oxygen debt. You should know from your training what you are capable of. There is no doubt about it, racing always hurts, but you train so you can tolerate the pain. By preparing well gives you the opportunity to succeed. All you can ask is to take advantage of those opportunities.

Remember, steady always wins the race.

Health & Living