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Mental Tricks for Running Races

Tips for Running Through Boredom and Discomfort


Updated March 09, 2013

Most runners have hit a rough patch at some point during a race. When you find yourself struggling during a race, try some of these mental tricks to get you to the finish:

Give yourself mini-goals.

Runners Warming Up Before Race
Chris Leschinsky
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.

Focus on the positive.

Runners in race
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Don't think back to bad races or terrible training runs in your past. Instead, focus on those races or runs when you felt really strong and confident and imagine yourself running the same way you did then.

Also see: Boost Your Running Confidence

Go fishing.

Runners in road race
Photo by John Foxx
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.

Running downhill
Mike Harrington

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. It can be your inner motivation when you need it most. Mantras can be especially helpful when you're getting close to the end of the race and you keep repeating, "I can do this" or "I am tough", to push yourself to the finish line. 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.

Talk to yourself.

Runner in race
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.

Distract yourself.

Race spectators cheering
Dream Pictures/Ostrow
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 and see them smiling and cheering. It helps me take my mind away from any discomfort I'm experiencing.

Also see: How to Have a Faster and Stronger Race Finish
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