It is a simple fact that mental fatigue contributes to your physical exhaustion, and even when you are feeling fit as a fiddle your performance may be affected by stress or tension. Of course this is just normal. After all runners are human, so there’s a very good chance they might be having a off day mentally, and consequently, on the track. And there’s the pressure of the competition. Just before a race, many an inexperienced runner has psyched himself out over worry of finishing past their target. This is usually exacerbated in the days leading up to a race. Just as you taper your mileage to rest your legs, you should also taper your mind, or take some load off it, and go easy on yourself.
Maintaining your target pace is a stressful mental exercise and it shouldn’t become the focal point of your race. Mental imagery can be a powerful motivator too though. Canadian researchers found that picturing a tiring action in their minds, decreases muscular endurance in some subjects in a subsequent test. So it also stands that visualizing your race in a positive manner can impact you positively. Don’t picture yourself breaking muscles to finish the race. Picture a calm image and try to set it to the rhythm that you associate with a good run.
When it comes to marathon distances this is many times more compounded. Especially given the months of hard work you have put into it. Mental fatigue is of exceptional concern in races of 10K or more, but it becomes a significant part of the experience in anything beyond a half marathon. The week before the race is important to not stress yourself over everyday issues. Let things pass by. Focus on keeping a calm head, and keep aside thoughts of confrontation. Have someone do the petty chores around the house if they are a significant part of your daily life. Or do them yourself without feeling overwhelmed.
The easiest way to ensure less stress on race day is prepare well in advance.
• Make a pre-race dinner reservation so you’re not running around for that. Especially if you’re traveling out of town for the race
• Take care of every travel and commute contingency in advance
• Pick a light book or movie to watch the night before to relax your mind.
• Sleep early.
• Turn your phone’s Do-not-Disturb mode on the evening before a race, and keep your out-of-office auto-replies ready if it’s a mid-week run.
It’s not a bad thing to feel nervous before a run. Often that translates into positive energy, but don’t get bogged down by the knots in your stomach. Know that you’ve trained hard and there’s always another run to make up for this one. Don’t let the stress beat you to the finish line.