Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How to Encourage Yourself to Push Through a Tough Race

We've all been there.

No matter what the distance, no matter how many races you've run, we've all had at least one race where we've hit "the wall".  Some of us more than one.

Physically exhausted, mentally beat up, it would be easy to call it quits. Right? 

But there's no glory in quitting. So what is a runner to do? How can you encourage yourself to get back on track and finish the race?


Been there, done that! I've run a few races...and I've battled those mental demons more than I care to admit. If you've been reading the blog for any length of time, you know how much work I've done on mental fitness along with my race training. Since today's Wednesday Word is encourage, I thought I'd share some of my favorite strategies that I've used to encourage myself to get to the finish line.

You've got to have friends...Yes. I've run plenty of races where my friends have been running too. But I've run only one race with a friend by my side. Big Sur was so special to me in so many ways but mostly for having Kristina run with me. When I signed up I didn't even think about how hard this race would be. I could never have predicted that I'd be running on minimal training and battling plantar fasciitis. I gave Kristina plenty of opportunities to back out, even when we were running the actual race. But she stuck by my side, and we finished, hand in hand.

I don't think I'll ever get enough of looking at this. What a magical experience!
It's all about the bling-bling... Have you ever run a race for the bling? Plenty of people I know run those Disney races just for all the medals. If you don't finish, you don't get bling. End of story. That should be enough encouragement to keep you moving. It works for me.

I did run this one for the bling. What an awesome medal. My husband treated me to beer...
There's beer at the finish... To me, there is nothing that tastes better than that post race beer. Most of the time, that is. If they are serving Michelob light or some other similar swill, I'll wait until I can get to the bar. But if there's a tasty craft beer at the finish, that knowledge gives me an extra kick in my step! My first Chicago Marathon was so hard and I felt so sick that I wasn't able to partake in the yummy Goose Island 312 that they were serving at the finish. Talk about regrets...

Dance to the music... I don't always race with music but when I do, I make sure that I have some kick ass tunes on my playlist. I need stuff that will push me down the road. For me, that's heavy metal/rock and rap. Whatever it takes, right? Sometimes I even sing--out loud! Current faves include California Love by 2 Pac (an oldie but a goodie because I'm still in California mode), My Way by Limp Bizkit (another oldie), and Kiss This by The Struts. Boom.


Just breathe... Truly my favorite mantra, I wear this on my wrist every day. As I like to say, if you can't breathe, you can't do anything. Sometimes when I'm running, I need to remind myself of this.

Trust the training... When the going gets tough, remind yourself of all the hard work you did to get to this point. When Kristina and I were pushing up those hills of Big Sur, I'm sure she was rolling her eyes as I kept chanting "drive, drive". That's what Becky kept telling me during my training when she had me pulling the sled, and I won't lie, those hills felt exactly like pulling the sled. That coach of mine knows what she's doing, and it felt great to remind myself of that during my goal race.



Smile... Smiling's my favorite. Truly. What is is about smiling that lightens the load? Smiling relaxes your facial muscles. Smiling helps release endorphins and serotonin, those feel-good hormones. And if you don't feel like smiling, thank a volunteer. The volunteer will smile at you and we all know that smiling is contagious. Don't forget to smile at the photographers, no matter how bad you feel! Bad race photos just remind us of the pain...

Worst race photo ever. I was feeling bad, and yep, it showed! If only I had smiled..
Wisconsin Half Marathon 2011
Phone a friend... Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when I ran my first Chicago Marathon, I hit the wall hard at mile 17-18. I called my husband crying to come and pick me up. He told me no way would he do that. "Walk the rest of the way if you have to. Just finish, " he told me. And he was right. Could I have lived with myself if I DNF'd? It was bad enough that I fell apart. That phone call got me to the finish. While I wasn't happy with my results, I finished. Which is more than 99.9% of the population can say!

What do you do to encourage yourself during a tough race or run? 

I'm linking up with DebRuns for WednesdayWord! Today's word is encourage!











Also linking up with Running Coaches' Corner! Check out Susie, Debbie, Rachel, and Lora Marie!

76 comments :

  1. It is so funny to me that the bling bling doesn't motivate me… Yet :-) I've done only for no five :-) races with medals. Maybe that's the reason why? But the rest of it – – if you swap coffee for beer :-) nails it for me.
    Especially especially especially the friends.

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    1. I guess it's not the bling bling per se--but it's the feeling of being rewarded with the medal of a dream race around my neck that motivates me! I wanted that one badly!

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  2. Several of the items you mentioned made me smile. Running for bling was something I did when I first starting racing (hello Disney Princess Half Marathon, my first big race) but lately I want to earn age group prizes at those same Disney races! Once I texted one word to Christine during a hilly half and it was "brutal". Smiling is good and thinking about beer at the finish line is another good piece of advice!

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    1. Whatever it takes to get to that finish line--I say do it!

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  3. Great minds....I say that because I also mentioned sMiLiNg at the end of my Encourage post LOL Thankfully, I have never DNF'd a race, but there have been a few where it felt like I had to practically crawl to the finish.....and those are the very races that I look back on with a sense of pride for having won the battle ;-)

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    1. Exactly! I'm proud to say I've never DNF'd a race but I will admit I've thought about it more than I'd like..

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  4. I walk or stop at the water stations when I need to...the bling doesn't motivate me as much as if I keep on moving this will be over a lot sooner!

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    1. Oh, trust me, I have those thoughts too!

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  5. I love that pic of your beer and your bling after your last marathon!! I need to find a race that gives out purple medals for my girls...they ask me after every race why I didn't get them a purple medal?!

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  6. I will be the first to admit - I enjoy getting a shiny medal after completing a race lol. During my 2nd half marathon (which I call the hills upon hills half marathon), I called my mom crying after mile 4 saying I was going to turn around and walk back. She pretty much told me to suck it up buttercup!

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    1. Isn't it great having that person on the phone to tell you to keep moving?

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  7. Not to burst your bubble, but I heard that even if you don't finish a Disney race, you still get the medal for "participating". Which is crazy. But yea, I get what you are saying, that bling at the end of a race is definitely a motivator. I of course run for other reasons andd just crossing the finish line is one of them. Getting a medal is nice but now I am less concerned about what it looks like. I often wonder about those folks who've been running for decades now and what motivated them during the times when you only got a medal if you won?

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    1. I should have clarified the bling thing...I don't care as much about what the medal looks like as I do about getting one--it means I finished!

      Seriously, you get a medal at Disney even if you don't finish? Just one more issue I have with RunDisney...

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  8. Well, having just come off one . . . let's just dehydration is not fun and while I smiled for the photographers, that was about it the second half of the race.

    But no, I never even think of DNF. Hopefully I'll never have to.

    For this one, I stop watching my Garmin (which could've been a mistake, or not, who knows), not that I was glued to it, mind you, but I would glance at my time each mile before the wheels came off.

    And I told myself to just run during the run intervals, and walk during the walk intervals. Which is exactly why my husband's photos close the finish show me walking -- cause it was a walk interval, not because I had given up!

    I did still manage to sprint to the finish line, though. It was actually pretty funny. They have an announcer announcing your name & town as you cross the finish. I was running close to another girl, and then I blew past her, and the announcer quickly had to change from announcing her to announcing me!

    I am not coordinated enough to look at my phone during a race (not to mention it already had that shattered screen!).

    Oh, and this is the second race (I think) with beer at the end but I don't drink (and I especially don't like beer). It would've been a good day for it, though.

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    1. It's funny how we can summon up enough energy to push to that finish line! It's almost like a magnet...

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  9. Oh man I have wanted to quit before. Boston, 2014. I kept thinking about all the people tracking me and how I couldn't let them down! After thinking about that, there was no possible way I could have thrown in the towel!

    Reading this makes me think I have to have a talk with my husband and tell him if I ever want to quit a race for a reason other than injury or possible death, he needs to tell me NO YOU WILL NOT QUIT. I mean, I feel like he would tell me that anyway, but you better know. It's like my running will, hahahaha. This is what to do in the case that I want to quit.

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    1. Seriously! No matter how badly you want to quit, he has to tell you no!!! Thank goodness my husband did that. I never had that talk with him but he knew what to do.

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  10. Even though I don't race, I find all these tips (except the bling!) helpful in just finishing a tough run. Posting more about this on my f/b page. It seems that we are all like-minded today....

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    1. Maybe it's the time of year--we all need a little extra push today!

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  11. So funny about the beer. If a 'lawn-mower' beer is at the finish. I'll wait for my IPA at the bar. :) Beer snob - I admit it.

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    1. Right there with you! LOL--lawn mower beer!

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  12. I try to find a rhythm. A chant or mantra. Put on music or sing to myself. Something to help me find a groove. Scan the crowd for people you know! Whatever I can do to stay in stride--if I stop, I know that I am dooone. I hope you'll link this up with Running Coaches Corner!

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  13. Smiling always helps me. I'm always on the lookout for the course photographers because flashing a smile and a thumbs up puts a little pep in my step, even when I otherwise feel miserable. Post-race booze doesn't hurt either. ;)

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    1. I learned my lesson from that first marathon and I always smile for the photographers, no matter how bad I feel. Isn't it interesting how you can muster up a smile even at the worst times?

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  14. Having a friend to run with is so great! I don't always have one, rarely actually, but the one time I needed her, running the 2000 LA Marathon in the 40 degree pouring rain, she was there. Together we pushed through and managed to finish in 3:33! Not my fastest time, but one of my proudest moments. Or stupidest, I had hypothermia after the race (cured by a hot shower though) :-)

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    1. I've run races in those conditions--solo--and it would have been nice to have someone to pull me through it!

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  15. Oh hell yes to every single one of those things!!!! As you know, I just had to talk my way though my triathlon and I have never been more proud of myself for fighting though hell and earning every ounce of the bling and my place!!! In the end...it's all worth it. Great post!!

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    1. It's always worth it! And the tougher races make it even more sweet.

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  16. Excellent ideas! Have you done a race based on what beer they will have at the end? I'm only asking because a few place in my area do brewery sponsored races, and I heard a guy saying that the was only doing the race because of the beer.

    I love the Dance to the music tip!! I firmly believe in the power of dancing, and of singing loudly in the course.

    I have not done many long distance runs, but in the Marathon, I pulled out my phone and watched a video of my son and looked a pictures of my niece. I just helped me feel better.

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    1. I haven't done a race based on the beer they're serving but I certainly would! There's a 10 miler here in the spring and they serve Lagunitas at the finish. That is definitely a huge incentive for me!

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  17. I usually repeat a mantra like "one more mile" or I just try to focus on a short-term goal like getting to the next intersection. But most of all I draw upon the memories of the tough workouts that I had leading up to the race. I tell myself I got through them so I can get through this! Also, what's up with races serving Michelob Ultra? Distance runners need calories post-race, not some watery low-carb junk! I guess the beer company wants to associate their brand with a fitness event. They probably think non-runners will assume that they too can get in shape if they just drank their watery beer! Ironically, runners want the opposite. They want (and need) carbs and calories!

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    1. Haven't you seen their ads? They are marketing to runners. Ewwww. Don't they know we like a good craft beer? I love that Goose Island has partnered with the Chicago Marathon. I hope that continues now that AB owns them...

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  18. Lots of self talk for me during long runs/races and heck regular old life. I have to often tell myself to shut up and keep moving forward, LOL!

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    1. Haha! Sometimes you just have to tell the voices in your head to go away!

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  19. Love it! Great advice. Smiling is my thing too. I always think in the final miles (kilometres) it's only 4 more miles of my life, 4 more miles etc :)

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    1. I like that thought process! I do the same thing.

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  20. I love racing for the beer!! Several cyclocross races up here have breweries as sponsors and have beer and food for sale so spectators make a day of it and you can drink and eat after your race and stay and cheer and heckle for the other races!

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  21. Oh yes, we've all been there!! And those negative words can so easily spiral out of control until we are sabotaging our race. I love your tips! I try to turn my words around and remind myself that I AM strong and I can do hard things. But sometimes, it's just plain brutal.

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    1. Once those negative thoughts start rolling in, it's hard to turn it around!

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  22. knowing i can sit down and relax usually is enough to help me through the race. listening to music and concentrating on the beat also helps. and when it is really hard - just watching the ground and counting steps over and over somehow keeps me going.

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    1. Sometimes just focusing on steps is enough!

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  23. I either play a favorite song over and over, take a walk break, and think about post race food. Usually gets me to the finish !

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    1. Oh, post race food is always an incentive!

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  24. How do I push through those tough times? If I'm not hurting, then I try an remember the pain of when I am hurting and that helps me keep going. If I'm hurting, I'm more than likely praying to God to carry me through. But you are right, now matter what you have got to do, you have got to push through, run, walk, crawl to that finish but FINISH!

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  25. I ran WI 2011 too! Why did I not see you?! I also walked and phoned for pickup at a certain Chicago Marathon. Thank heavens these hubbies of ours talked us down! Quitting would totally suck.

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    1. Seriously, why did I not know you then?!

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  26. I am all about the friends! I've finished many a hard run with them

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  27. Craft beer, YES!! I love the bling. The only race I really would have loved to quit was the Huntington Half because of GI issues, but I knew that I would feel much worse if I didn't finish...I knew I'd rather just walk and finish than quit... I ran and finished anyway, but I know that in a worst case, I can walk 26.2 miles.

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    1. That was the attitude I had going into Big Sur. Worse case scenario? I could walk. Thankfully I didn't have to!

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  28. This is great!! Every single marathon I've done has had its issues. I had one DNF in which I tried to finish sick but the others I willed myself through...

    But I keep coming back for more, lol!!!

    @hellyontherun

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    1. I never say never any more! Not sure what I'll do next, tho.

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  29. I have a few races that stand out as being my tough races. I only remember one that I considered quitting but I didn't.

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    1. That Chicago marathon was the only one I considered quitting. The rest I just toughed it out.

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  30. Those are great tips. I've never thought to call a friend. My husband is notorious for not answering his phone so trying to call him probably would backfire -- or energize me to get to the finish so I can call him out!

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    1. That was THE ONLY time I called anyone. I learned then that I can do anything I put my mind to. But hey, it's always an option.

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  31. So much truth! all great! I've been in a bit of a slump recently finishing my last few half marathons over 2 hours (and I don't like that! lol!). I have one in Chicago this Sunday so this is a timely post. I'm updating my playlist and will be thinking about those I'm running for this weekend....I'll be part of Team Momentum raising funds and awareness for MDA.

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    1. Oh man, two blogger friends running the Chicago Spring half! Deb Runs will be there too. The weather looks perfect and If I didn't know better, I'd sign up at the last minute. It's going to be a great day.

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  32. First, it helps to think of anything other than the pain you're likely feeling. Like anything. It also helps to remember why you're doing this: because you CAN. and that is so darn powerful! Also yes, post race beer is the best tasting beer :)

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    1. That's a great tip. Mind over matter right?

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  33. This is a fantastic list and I relate to ALL of them. Especially about the bling, which is sometimes the only reason I sign up for a race! I agree with Christina about thinking of anything other than the pain, too. E.g., "at least my my eyelashes don't hurt!" LOL. It's amazing how much of a difference it makes to have company and/or good spectators, too, yes? Just having them there to tell you "you can do this" can change everything!

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    1. Haha! I think at last fall's Chicago Marathon, my eyelashes did hurt because I got that migraine in the middle of the thing. You're right, the spectators make all the difference!

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  34. Yes to all of those! Plus I always think about how I would feel if I DNF'ed - unless I was actually injured or severely ill, a DNF would feel awful. And pushing through a rough races makes it easier the next time a race throws something tough your way!

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    1. I'm proud to say that I've never DNF'd. I don't know how I'd feel if I didn't finish a race for any other reason than a broken bone.

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  35. PHONE A FRIEND!!! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who does that. Hahaha! It's so true. Sometimes you just need someone to talk you through it. You are 100% right -- there's no glory in quitting. Unless you're injured. But even then, if you're injured and you still cross the finish line there's a tiny touch of glory. Not much but it's there. :)

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    1. That's exactly right. There's no glory and no bling if you quit.

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  36. I always remember my training. I try to imagine a training run that was hard and work hard to push through like I did then. Smiling is definitely important too!

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  37. Great tips! I think putting a smile on your face naturally improves your mood and helps get negative thoughts out of your head. I love using music as motivation, too. I don't use it at all in training and on race day I like to save it until the later miles.

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    1. I need my music to push me through those tough runs.

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  38. Great take on encouragement, Wendy. I love my bling, but it's the encouragement of friends who gets me across the finish line - whether they're with me in person or not.

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. It's really all about that finish line feeling!

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