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Published April 25 2011

Wagner: Mental obstacles can be daunting come race day


Training for an endurance race can prove more than a challenge.

It’s a rollercoaster of highs and lows, mentally and physically, sometimes so tightly wound together it’s difficult to distinguish when one is ending and the other is beginning.

Add injuries, missed workouts, poor sleep or eating habits, or extra demands at work or home, and it’s difficult to gauge whether the next race will leave you euphoric or seeking counseling from your running friends.

As runners, we train months to show up at a certain time and date with hopes to surprise ourselves, prove the work paid off, and share our passion for a sport where minutes and seconds matter.

We control nearly everything leading up to race day, and so much of what happens in those hours and minutes after the race starts is in our hands. About the only thing we don’t control is the weather.

Regardless, my plan always focuses on showing up on marathon morning knowing I’ve done everything in my power to prepare.

My greatest fear as a runner is showing up on a perfect morning – race day – and knowing I didn’t do the training to give my best.

But it’s not enough to show up ready to run well. The mind has to be ready to race.

As runners, we need to train our brains to tell our bodies what to do.

Increasingly, more and more is being written about the mental aspect of running. A good mantra is helpful, but is it going to make you keep up a punishing pace when you’re only half way through a race and your legs want to slow down?

There are a lot of fast runners, but how many do you know who burn it up in practice and then wonder what happened during their race?

Knowing you’re a tough runner requires discipline, focus and training – mentally and physically.

Feed off of the highs, internalize them to bolster your confidence, and leave the self-doubt at home.

The Fargo Marathon is less than four weeks away. Are you going to be ready to run – and think – your way to a personal best?

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Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@forumcomm.com.