Coach’s Corner: Take control of your mind on race day


I must first apologize for my absence last week. It’s often said that you can’t preach what you don’t practice. And I was faithfully practicing the art of giving it all by racing.

Now, fresh from one successful race and one big failure, I come back to talk about the one thing that makes or breaks a race: our minds.

When things are going good, it’s so easy to stay motivated and push hard, but when things are not going well we tend to lose focus and concentration and we let our negative thoughts get in the way of our ability to perform to the top of our ability.

Our minds are always processing thoughts. It’s through training that we’re able to control those thoughts and able to discard the bad ones and keep the ones that move us forward.

The most important exercise for our minds is to mentally rehearse — both our training runs and our races.

Go over each aspect of the race: First go through your plan and execute the race in your mind. Do that over and over again until you know every downside and every highlight of your plan.

Once you’re able to execute it perfectly in your mind, now think of what could possibly go wrong and be prepared to eliminate the negative thoughts that go with it. Be prepared to counter each negative situation and don’t let the negative aspects of it take control of your mind. Stay on top and stay positive.

But more important, if we mentally prepare our race, and we know what pace we should be running, and how that pace feels, when to drink, when to eat, then we know how to keep ourselves positively motivated. Then we’ll be able to focus on these things and not have time for any negative or distracting thoughts.

As soon as we lose our concentration and start executing a different plan, our minds start the doing same: weighing the process of pros and cons and we lose additional concentration and end up walking or slowing down confused and plagued with pointless thoughts.

The only way to avoid a mental breakdown is by rehearsing our game plan and trying our best to stick with it. And if things go wrong, we will know how to eliminate negative thoughts and push through.

But always the big question is: how the heck do I do that?

Well, Grasshopper, you begin by first clearing your mind and breathing deeply, eliminate all distracting thoughts and calm down. Keep breathing calmly and deeply. Once you are relaxed and in peace, analyze and organize your thoughts: placing order on your thoughts disables stress.

First dress up; think of all the things you need. Now eat breakfast; what makes you feel good? What do you eat that makes you run like a tiger? Eat it. No warm up, do the warmup exercises that set you up for a perfect run.

Now start running. Feel every mile, ask yourself, “What do I need? How do I feel?”

Know how you’re going to feel, anticipate the feeling. Know yourself. Keep breathing deeply and relaxed. Now go through the later stages of the race when you are tired and think about what you tell yourself when you can’t go further. Then eliminate that thought!

Replace it with words of encouragement. See yourself crossing the finish line successfully. Rest and tomorrow do it all over again.

Once you’re fully in control of your mind and you know how to calm yourself, you are ready to go out and race and be successful. Because you are in control.

Practice this technique for your long runs and every run you’ve had a hard time completing. See how much easier it is to complete them when you’re in complete control.

Now smile and know that you are enjoying yourself, and that you’re doing what you love! And like my friend and Coach Andy Liebner says: “You can’t control your competitors; but, more importantly, they can’t control you.”

That’s true so long as you are in control of yourself!

German Medrazo is cofounder of the Valley Running Company in McAllen and is a 18-time ironman, a 10-time marathoner, an ultra-marathoner and a Nordic ski marathoner. This column is for information and entertainment purposes only. Runners are strongly advised to consult with a doctor before beginning any exercise program.