"How I Mentally Prepare For Race Day" was written by Clare Gallagher. Clare is an ultra runner who lives and trains in Boulder, Colorado. Clare ran track for Princeton University before converting to endurance races. She recently won the prestigious Leadville 100 mile trail race.
In almost every moment of my life, there is some element of mental preparation for a race: waiting in line at a grocery store, driving to a trailhead, lying down for bed, stretching and foam rolling—it can all be used as mental training. I use these times to envision patience, to think about enduring pain, to imagine pushing harder. Of course, the best mental preparation occurs while actually training, i.e. when redlining during a hill workout, or when trying to keep it easy during a recovery run. All of this is a way-of-life for me, because even if my next race is two months out, my mind is subconsciously preparing for it. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m constantly verbalizing my mental whereabouts. That’d be annoying. No one cares. In keeping my mental training to myself, I’m able to develop a close, very confident relationship with my mind. Come race day, I believe that I am a mental machine of impenetrable greatness.
Barring injury, I never go without racing for longer than a few months. My competitive stoke is just too insatiable. Racing, for me, is a way to keep myself honest and to keep my mind from getting bored. Having been injured so much throughout four years of collegiate cross-country and track, I still feel like I’m making up for races I missed out on. I think having races on your calendar, as often that best suits your competitive stoke meter, gives you a reason to stay mentally sharp in every way of your life. Being bored while waiting at a traffic light is an insult to your running; use that time to envision waiting for the opportune moment to drop a competitor!
In the moments before a race, my mind blanks out pretty significantly. All of my training has been done. I don’t want to waste an iota of energy on stress, worry of the unknown, the course, my competitors…I just want to be. It’s almost counterintuitive to how I live non-race moments (the majority of my life), but that’s what makes racing so special. It’s a time of complete trust in everything you’ve done up until that moment before the gun goes off. You won’t have to pine for motivation when you hit a low; you’re brain should automatically go to the times you’ve envisioned this moment and work through the tough spot just as you’ve done many times before. This is home-brewed athletic intelligence at its finest!