"Long distance running is 90% mental and the other half is physical." -Rich Davis
While the above quote is meant to be humorous, like many things that make us laugh, there's a little truth to it. All long distance runners know that the mental challenges of running and racing can be just as difficult, and sometimes even harder, than the physical tests. Staying motivated to keep training can be tough, and getting through your runs, especially those long runs, requires a great deal of mental strength.
Most runners have been in a race when they've hit a rough patch. When you find yourself struggling during a race, try some of these mental tricks to get to the finish:
Give yourself mini-goals. If you're really struggling, don't focus on how much farther you have to go. Just worry about getting to the next mile marker, the next water stop, or another landmark. Keep giving yourself small goals, so you don't feel overwhelmed by thinking about how far it is to the finish line.
Go fishing. Focus on someone in front of you who you think you can catch. Imagine you're casting out a fishing line and hooking that person. Then imagine yourself reeling that person in, as you keep getting closer and closer to him.
Find a mantra. Picking a short phase, such as "One step at a time," that you play over and over in your head while running can help you stay focused and centered. You may already have a favorite phrase to use as a mantra, but if you don't have one, check out these quotes about running motivation and running marathons for some inspiration.
Distract yourself. Try to take attention away from how you're feeling by focusing on everything outside your body. I always like to look at the spectators' faces or read their signs as I pass them. It helps me take my mind away from any discomfort I'm experiencing.
Talk to yourself. Who cares if the person running next to you thinks you're crazy? Sometimes giving yourself a little pep talk and saying things such, "I can do this!" or "I'm staying strong" can help you through a rough patch.