The current issue of Runners World magazine features a great cover story on Kara Goucher, probably the best female marathoner in the country right now. It talks about the ongoing struggles that Kara has endured with that very thing; confidence for race day. It's a poignant look at someone, who from the outside, would appear to be supremely confident in her ability to run, and run well in competition.
It's not the case though. That encourages me in a big way. If an Olympic marathoner struggles with "what if" thoughts leading up to game day, I feel pretty normal knowing that I do likewise. Obviously, I don't feel the same kind of pressure to perform that a sponsored, elite athlete feels, but the amount of pressure I place on myself to perform at my best, is no less significant to me.
Confidence in running, for me, comes from knowing that I put in the training, planning and effort that was required to bring me to this point. I've learned that confidence doesn't blindly assume that nothing will go wrong during my race tomorrow. Instead, I accept that there will be moments and periods during the race that I will feel poorly, tired, hurt and the like. The key to my preparation though, is to accept that fact NOW, and plan what I am going to do about it before the race begins. The middle of a race is no place to be forced to make critical decisions.
Here is what I have done to mentally prepare for the marathon tomorrow. I'm sure you have other things to add to this list, but these are my top ones:
- Plan on how/when/where I will hydrate
- How fast I will start the race
- When I will make self assessment of physical/psychological condition
- How I will deal with pain and discomfort in the latter 6 miles
- What conditions will have to be present to make me quit
- Where I want to be pace-wise at the half-way point
- What pace I will push between miles 13.1 and 20
- How much kick will I have for the final 6.2 miles?
- Exactly how much pain am I willing to endure for performing well in this race. (ALOT)