Trust the training. As a running coach, this is often one of the last pieces of advice I give my runners before a big race. Trust the training. Simple, right? Trust that the training is enough. That you’ve followed the plan. That your body knows what to do. That you’re ready. I repeat this mantra over and over to myself in my own races. Trust the training.
So why is it so hard to trust the training? In a recent half marathon, around mile 9, I had an epiphany.
As is typical for me in the later stages of a race, I was doing my check in. I examined my form – good. I thought about how I felt mentally – strong. And then I checked in with my body and my perceived exertion. I was working hard. Tiny little tendrils of panic began to spiral up. I was working hard and moving into the early stages of a complete mental meltdown. Now, you might be reading this and thinking, “of course she’s working hard – it was mile 9”. When I read what I wrote over to myself I think the same thing. Of course I was working hard. It’s ridiculous to think that I would be racing and doing anything other than working hard at mile 9. I was working hard, but I wasn’t working that hard. There was no reason to worry. Yet, the little wispy tendrils of worry had become dread. In the space of about 400 meters I had gone from strong, easy running to “did I go out too fast”, “there’s no way I can keep this pace”, “I’m going to DNF” disaster. My pace deteriorated, my form became a mess, I thought about calling my mommy. Why do I even run, I thought.
And that’s when it dawned on me. This same sense of dread is the mental nemesis I battle every time I race. Deep down, I worry that the training isn’t enough. That I’m not ready. That I’m not enough. I love running. But racing draws out my mental demons. I run in a lot of races, but friends will tell you I don’t often race. I keep my expectations low for most of the events I run. I realized, around mile 10, that when I don’t race because I’m afraid of failing, not because my training plan dictates that I don’t race, that I’m feeding the little monster that says I can’t.
Since the race, I’ve been thinking about this epiphany. When did working hard become something to fear? I enjoy working hard. I like pushing myself. So why is it that when the sensation of working hard hit me in a race that it triggers self-doubt? It makes no sense. Yet there it is – my mental battle.
I don’t have a great solution yet. I’m still working this one out, but I reckon this is a feeling most runners have struggled with, so I’m sharing in hopes that we can draw together as brothers and sisters with tiny, hidden monsters who talk to us when we run.