How to nail your next goal race: a mindset shift that will help you perform at your best
Most runners train with a goal race in mind. Even if you’re in “maintenance mode” or working on building a base, you have some end-goal in mind. Maybe you are working towards a marathon or half-marathon, maybe it’s a 5K or 10K, or perhaps you have it on your list to complete your first ultra.Whatever your goal race, a subtle shift in mindset can set you up for success on race day.
In the 16 years I’ve been running, I’ve trained for a lot of “goal races” sometimes with great success and other times, despite consistent training and hard work, I come up short on race day. With all that racing experience, I’ve started to notice a trend regarding the outcome of “goal races” which seems to hold true no matter the distance or terrain.
What I have found is that if I see the goal race as a destination--a final end point to my training, my desired outcome eludes me. But if I view the goal race as simply a point along my trajectory as a runner, often times the result is the outcome I had hoped for or sometimes better.
The race is not the end point.
Shifting your mentality to see your goal race not as an end point, but as a point along a journey can be a challenge. Your training is constructed specifically for that race, sometimes your daily habits change as your prepare. It can feel as if your life is revolving around that one goal. Things can become black and white as you focus on your training leading up to the race, but don’t think much beyond the race.
Instead of seeing just the training cycle you are in and your goal race, try to shift your perspective to consider how other training segments and races have led you to where you are now. Think beyond the goal race to future training and future goals. Consider your journey as a runner on the whole and how this cycle and race fit in along the trajectory of your running.
What will this teach me?
To shift my mentality regarding races that I’m training for, I try to ask the question “what will this race teach me?” Turning the race into a learning experience can dismantle the pressure that builds from putting all your effort and energy into one race.
By focusing more on the lessons you’ll learn from the race instead of the outcome itself, you’ll free yourself up to be more in-tune with your effort on race day. My personal experience has shown me that when I focus on outcome, my effort becomes forced and my performance suffers. But when I focus on effort, often the desired outcome follows.
Next time you’re headed into a goal race, imagine where the experience falls on the continuum of your running journey and consider what lessons the race has to teach you.
Need help shifting your mindset? Check out my Race Day Mental Prep Workbook.