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Get above the line

  • Ultra Marathon
  • Half Marathon
  • Training

Get above the line - here's to a fabulous Two Oceans

One day to go!  The butterflies in your stomach should be fluttering, you should be building in excitement and enjoying the spirit of the race!

There's not too much left to say, other than to enjoy the race and give it a proper go!  However, I do want to speak just a little about a crucial factor that often swings the result from bad to good, or from good to great, and that's your mental approach to the adversity that is inevitable on the day.

The bad patches and getting above the line

Regardless of whether you're out there to finish, to have fun, to break your PB, to challenge yourself to run faster than before, to hit a target (sub-6, sub-2, silver etc), a race as long as 21km and 56km is bound to have a few "bad patches".  In the last few weeks, I've done a video recon series to look at those likely sections - Chapmans Peak Drive, Constantia Nek or the climb of Southern Cross Drive are places in the race where a little voice in your head will suddenly start speaking.

That voice will challenge you and plant some doubt in your mind - it says "Ross, you're not really up to this, are you?  You need to slow down, this is a bad idea!".  That often happens to people when they are about halfway through the race, they're on the first climb or the last climb of the day, and it's here at it's very easy to allow negative thoughts to enter your mind. 

My advice to you, and a challenge for you, is to borrow from something we use with the SA Sevens Rugby team, who I'm fortunate enough to be involved with.  And that is to remind yourself to "STAY ABOVE THE LINE".  There is a line which represents attitude and mindset, and it's sometimes easy to drop below that line and be negative, or pessimistic, too hard on ourselves.  Running requires that we "lift our spirits" and get above "Above the line".

Fall back on your training, your foundations

So in these moments, where temptation strikes because of that little voice, you need to tell yourself to climb above that line, to conquer the challenge and to do so with a positive mindset.  And this is not simply a case of "deceiving yourself" - the way to get there is to fall back on a solid foundation of belief that comes from knowing that you've done the training, you're good enough, you've prepared and your mind and body are both strong enough to deal with whatever is thrown at you.

This is the attitude of the greatest runners in the world, the Kenyans.  They accept no limits from anyone.  We too often accept limits that are not real, they are handed down to us by others who don't believe in us, and who tell is "It's too hard, you can't do it".  The mindset of a champion is to say "I will discover my own limits, and I will be positive and enjoy it while I do".  And you are a champion, that mindset can be yours.

Control - accept what you cannot control, and recognize what you do control - your attitude

Also, it's important to accept what you can and cannot control.  There are elements that you have no influence over - the weather, for example, is expected to be rainy and windy.  Accept this, and get yourself into a mental space that embraces that challenge, not one that shirks away from it.  This is being above the line. 

Similarly, we have no control over the route profile - there is a hill at the start of the half, and there is a hill at 10km in the half.  Same for the Ultra - the hills are there, there is nothing you can do to avoid them!  But what you can do, by getting yourself above the line, is to accept them and then to rise up and meet their challenge.

Dealing with pre-race nerves - embrace them, because they are a sign of your special achievement

This is what makes your achievement special, and so a final word on pre-race nerves.  If you were not slightly nervous, I'd be concerned for you!  Those nerves are a vital part of your upcoming achievement.  Think about it - if you were not nervous, it would be a sign that this race is easy.  It would be a sign that anyone could do what you're about to do, and it would mean that your performance is lessened.  But that's not the case - this race will challenge you, but you should embrace that challenge.  You should be saying "Bring it on, because the harder this is, the better I am for conquering it!".  A hill?  "I will flatten this hill by running it above the line!"

Ultimately, the satisfaction, the joy and the pride you will feel at that finish line is proportional to the size of the challenge you overcome - if it was easy, everyone would do.  But you will do it, and that's the achievement.

So stay above the line, know your goal, and execute it.  

I wish you all the best for your race, whatever the target, and hope to hear your stories of achievement in the days after the race!

Happy running, and remember "Stay above the line"

Ross

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