By Gary Dudney

There comes a point in any race, or for that matter in performing any hard-fought task, when fear and self-doubt creep into your thinking and your inner dialogue turns negative. “I can’t keep this up. I didn’t train hard enough for this. The pain is unbearable. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to fail.” Allow these thoughts to continue and they will undermine you, sap your will, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anxious over failing, runners often tense up making it even harder to move smoothly through a full stride. That is why sport psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter in her book, Your Performing Edge, advises athletes to “stay relentlessly positive.”  One technique I learned from her book has helped me stay positive and determined to reach my goal in races of all distances and has even given me a tool for getting through difficult situations in other areas of my life. The technique involves getting to that moment in a race when you feel absolutely at your worst. The fatigue and pain have become overwhelming. Your energy is gone. Every step is a monumental effort. What now? Don’t pretend it’s not happening or try to ignore it. That will only make it worse. What you need to do is acknowledge what you’re feeling. Face up to it and then tell yourself, “Okay, this is how it feels when I’m really trying my hardest, doing my best, reaching for my goal. This is actually normal. This is how it is supposed to feel.” In other words, make how you’re feeling, as horrible as that might be, a positive thing. Take the worst moment in the race and turn it upside down. After all, it’s not supposed to be comfortable. Achieving almost anything worth having is going to be a struggle and so you’re just feeling what that struggle is like in running. In my book, The Tao of Running: Your Journey to Mindful and Passionate Running, I illustrate this technique and many others that will help you get through the toughest parts of your run. I also talk about how to see your running as a journey of self-discovery and how to get the most out of your running experiences. Staying relentlessly positive works well for running, and you’re likely to find, for just about everything else.


Gary Dudney is the author of The Tao of Running: Your Journey to Mindful and Passionate Running,  a fresh and unique perspective to the mental side of the topic of running. It offers readers multiple ways to significantly deepen, enlighten, and enrich their running experiences.


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