Find Your Happy Place
Maranoia is incredibly debilitating and probably listed as one the things most runners fear. It is that mental slip, causing a dip in confidence that allows you to start thinking “I’m not going to make it,” prompting you to quit the race and record a #DNF (Did not finish). No one likes a #DNF against your name. And I am not a fan of #DNS (Did not start) either but when you are genuinely injured you should take the advice of a sports health or healthcare professional and make an informed and sensible decision. I ran Amsterdam in 2012 in a leg brace that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a horse. That was stupid and pretty much ended my year. I decided not to run Berlin in 2013 the day before the race, and it was the most sensible thing I could’ve done.
But maranoia, for me, is the one thing I need to overcome every race day. Those little voices that sit in the back of your head and ask whether that niggle you are feeling in your ankle is something more serious than my shoddy attempt at stretching, or state that you are huffing a bit too much too soon and prompt you to question your ability to finish, or think that you probably didn’t train, or eat, or stretch enough before the start.
My recommendation is to take the brain out for a while, give it a holiday, you don’t need it to run anyway. You just need something to focus on, if you are not one of those runners who can get in “the zone”, repeat a mantra or just go. Some people run along chatting with a friend. I couldn’t think of anything worse, and joke that I took up running to get away from my friends in the first place. But my brain needs to be doing something. Music helps. But I tend to go off-piste a little and think about other things, daydreaming if you like, to stop the constant checking of the knees, legs, lungs, ankles and feet.
For example, I tend to run the same route home from work several times a week. So for races I can cast my mind’s eye back to those runs, picturing my loop around Regent’s Park in London and thinking how happy I feel knowing I just have Primrose Hill to climb and I am there. I also like to imagine my friends and loved ones en route, or normally at the finish of the race I am running, and picture how I will feel when I see them, what we will do and where will go afterwards (normally a cheese burger and ice cold beer).
If you listen to music, I like to use the same playlist for my runs. As then I mentally link my experience in the present with all those successful completed runs of the past. Oh, my brain will think, last time I heard this I was racing along the Thames river by Hampton Court. And it associates the music with the memory of running.
We are all different, but I know from speaking to my Twitter followers and fellow runners the world over, we all feel a bit of maranoia at one point or another. My advice? Do what works for you. Music, mantras, meditation, or you can just think of something that makes or made you happy completely unrelated to running: a surprise party, planning an engagement, your wedding, seeing your children after school, planning your next holiday.
Send your brain on a 2 hour holiday, and then let your body do what it does best: get you from A to B.