A Tale of Two Races

Moving into March marks the third month that my wife and I have been in Dubai. It also marks the best results in my running performance for some time. I believe this is testament to the ethos here at Innerfight and the encouragement I’ve received in the lead up to these events. The consistency and quality of training, during our group sessions and in the gym, has been second to none. It doesn’t hurt to be mocked about losing either, especially seeing as I am unbelievably competitive.
This blog has been written in the light of my most recent performances, both being PB’s while also having very contrasting emotions after. I will compare the differences in the circumstances leading up to a race and how this affected the runs themselves. I will look at how my mindset, understanding my body and knowing how I truly feel, gives me the edge come raceday.
With all the stress associated with the upheaval of moving to a new country, how is it possible to PB both a marathon and half marathon, yet finish both runs with such contrasting emotions?
The Dubai Marathon taught me a lot about myself and my body. Number one is that I get bored easily and creating mental games to keep me engaged is necccesary, especially when there is a 16km stretch down a straight road.
The race was my very first in Dubai and there was a lot of hype leading up to the event. I particularly felt the pressure of doing a great job to show #noweakness mantra that is synonymous with Innerfight, along with the enthusiastic comments received during Track Tuesday. Yes, naturally I am very fast, but having no previous pacing at a similar event and a later than ideal race entry, I felt pressured and underprepared.
I was happy enough with my time, but deep down know that if I had prepared properly, I would have eclipsed the 2.50 time. The race didn’t go well. I chose to run at a fast pace, one that I was confident I could maintain, but my body didn’t tolerate it. This was due to having limited conditioning with longer distances.
Sure enough, the knee (more specifically the ITB) went scratchy and progressed to needle-like pain. I crossed the line with a PB but suffered, I didn’t hit the wall per se but I altered my form due to my knee and that caused my running speed and focus to go out the window. Oh and yes, my laces came undone, alot.
The RAK half marathon was a totally different experience. My training had continued and my body is familiar with this shorter distance. I know a half marathon and I paced out my effort during training sessions beforehand to create a better race plan which built more confidence. I didn’t feel as much pressure, having settled into Dubai more and built more of a base fitness.
I knew I would excel as long as everything went to plan. I started that race confident, sure of my ability and in my mind I had walked along that road to success. The 24 hours before the run went exactly as I intended it to, nutrition, sleep and on the day logistics were all sorted out. The warm up was relaxed and I lined up at the start, excited and calm at the same time.
The run itself felt easy. I cruised the first 15km and like a baby elephant I fake charged at 11km and 13km, to see how my body responded, I felt so good. I left my two competitors with 4km to go, stretched out the legs and felt the ease at which I maintained the speed. Crossing the line I looked at my watch and initially felt disappointed, as I’d waited too long before stretching the legs, but was delighted that the race had been run the way I wanted it to.
Feeling comfortable in your head before a race is so important. Despite having never done the RAK half marathon before, I had rehearsed it all in my mind. My circumstances had progressed with living in Dubai, I was more settled and had built stronger relationships within InnerFight. This meant I was able to relax and have a bit of banter leading up to the race and as I lined up at the start, I was comfortable and confident. Better still, my energy had not been wasted on stress. I felt over the f*****g moon to be there and was ready to deliver.
The lesson here is, plan and then practice your pre race plan. If you write it down, get your coach to check over it and discuss it. Once it’s agreed and you’re happy with it, mentally rehearse it. This means that when you finally line up for your race, your are ‘optimally aroused’. You pay attention to things that need your attention, not distractions that waste energy. Then, you can use the positivity and energy of an event as a motivator as opposed to it acting as a debilitor.
Plan your race day around 2 to 3 weeks in advance, use our Ultimate spreadsheet to structure your plan. This way you’ll be crossing the finish line with a big grin!
By: Rob Foster, Endurance Coach