As two of the most important races on the ATX race calendar approach – 3M Half Marathon (this Sunday, January 25) and the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon (February 15) – many Austin runners will be aiming for a peak performance and/or PR in either one or both of these key races.
It’s probably best to peak for just one, rather both of these races. Even so, beginners or experienced runners tend to think of peaking for a specific half-marathon or marathon as primarily a physical process. We reduce our training runs, limit any cross-training we are doing, load up on carbohydrates and fluids and rest up for the big day. All good, smart things.
But peaking for a race as long as as a half marathon or full marathon is more than just getting the body ready for the physical demands that will follow on race day. Peaking should also involve getting your mind ready for the event as well.
In the final days or month before 3M or Austin, your mental focus must become more intense, clearer and specific as the race approaches.
Work on these important mental characteristics as race day draws near:
- Confidence. A runner should be confident of his/her ability to run well. Certainly, easier said than done. But, in order for the runner to be confident of running well, he/she must realistically look at the training which has already been accomplished and set an achievable goal. That goal should be based on recent races, long runs and speed workouts. The success you have had in your workouts will give you the confidence that you can meet your goals – whether time, place or simply finishing – in the race. By setting a goal of what you’re capable of running, it simply becomes a matter of following through and not screwing up to achieve that goal. There’s no question that 3M is more of a PR-friendly course than Austin, but a PR is an achievable goal in both races.
- Calmness. Every marathoner and half-marathoner will be geeked to the gills at the starting line of 3M and Austin. That’s perfectly normal. The mentally focused runner can channel the excitement inward and not get too carried away on a sea of emotion in the first few miles. If you do, you are likely to start the race way too fast which is suicide in a race as long as 13 or 26 miles. Try to isolate yourself in a sea of calm at the start and begin the race at a moderate pace and fully under control.
- Control. By now, you should have done this before – that is, raced – and know what it’s like. You’ve prepared properly and arrive at the starting area early enough so you can complete your warm up routine in an unhurried manner. You stretch, you check your post-race gear, you hydrate, you lubricate, you make a final bathroom stop – you take care of everything that needs to be done in a timely manner. You’re in charge of your race.
- Engaged. This means going over your race plan one last time as you wait for 3M and Austin to begin. And then once the starting gun goes off, sticking to your plan. That is, going out at a relaxed, even pace, checking your early splits, hydrating properly and taking on any planned nutrition at specific spots on the course. This also means not trying to run over your head in the early miles (especially 3M which has long downhill stretches). Being engaged, is all about following your race plan and not getting carried away with emotion until the latter stages of the race when you can use an emotional surge to carry you to the finish line.
- Internalize the course. We’re lucky. We can train on the 3M or Austin course – both of which are idiosyncratic. The 3M course has plenty of downhills with some tricky uphills, while Austin’s is punctuated by several sets of tough uphills in the first 18 miles (and some long downhills). Familiarity with each course can only help with visualizing each race. It’s too late to train on the 3M course, but you still have two weeks to practice running the Austin ups and downs.
- Be process driven, not results driven. Concern yourself with what you need to do in the race, not with the time you want to run. Treat the race like a long run. You have practiced that often enough and know what you have to do and when you have to do it. You know how to pace yourself judiciously. If you do, the results will follow.
- Be fearless. Neither Austin or 3M will be easy. Races this long aren’t supposed to be a cakewalk. But you have run countless miles, you have prepared for months for this with numerous long runs and will not be denied. You are the one who is in control. You are in the driver’s seat. All you have to do is trust in yourself and your race plan and then execute it.
3M Half Marathon Helpful Links
Austin Marathon/Half Marathon Helpful Links