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Michele Gonzalez: How to Shake Pre-Race Doubts

This past weekend I ran the fastest marathon of my life. It came on the heels of the best and most successful training cycle to date. But, as is often the case, the weeks leading up to the big race had me doubting my ability to race the way I wanted.

This time was no different.

There were runs I felt winded after 5 miles at a pace a minute slower than my goal pace.

There were days my legs burned climbing a set of stairs and I questioned how I would maintain my goal pace going uphill.

There were mornings I felt like I couldn’t drag myself out of bed because I felt so tired (despite getting a good night’s sleep).

There were aches and pains that I felt with every step I took or every run I went on that made me worry I wouldn’t be able to physically run 26.2 miles.

But I’ve learned something over the course of the 12 marathons I have completed: this period of doubt, fatigue and worry is normal. It usually shows up during my pre-race taper—a time of decreased mileage, less intense workouts and increased stress about the impending race. I’ve gotten better at pushing the doubt and negative thoughts out of my head. Rather than obsess about what doesn’t feel great, I focus my attention on the positives. Just remember that you are trained and prepared to tackle the distance.

Use these five tips to stay positive:

Go over your training log and focus on the highlights. Look how far you’ve come. Remember that long run where you finished strong? Remember that long tempo you completed on tired legs?

Read quotes, mantras and books that inspire you and strengthen your mind. Keep some favorite mantras handy for the later miles of race day when things start to get tough.

Visualize race day. Picture yourself at various points during the race. Go through both good and bad scenarios – prepare yourself for what you will do if something doesn’t go according to your plan.

Focus on what you can control: sleep, nutrition and hydration. Instead of letting self-doubt convince you to beat yourself up, take care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep. Eat nutritious foods and hydrate.

Remind yourself that this is supposed to be fun. Yes, training for a marathon requires hard work and commitment, but you’re doing it because you wanted to (or at least had a very good reason to do!). Enjoy it!