With the Ogden Marathon and Half Marathon just a few days away I thought I would share some helpful tips if you experience any pain or discomfort while racing.
1. Breathe into the area of pain.
This strategy continues to amaze me even after using and recommending it for over 20 years. Here’s what you do: If any area of your body starts “talking” to you, respond back with focused breathing into that specific spot. So if it’s your knee, foot, back or even shoulder; try and move your attention and breath into that region. You can try and imagine that you knee (or other body part) has a few nostrils on it as you practice and learn this method. I believe that anytime your body is trying to get your attention, you need to respond and not try and shut it out. Yes, pain will show up and you will need to manage it sometime during the race; be prepared and not surprised.
2. Change your cadence.
Instead of counting how many times my foot strikes the ground, I count when my elbow swings backward. This seems to make it much easier to keep an accurate count as the number increases rapidly (of course, I’m a guy so it may be easier for you womenJ). Most coaches recommend 88-92 steps per minute (each foot). Counting your steps will help you immediately change your focus and can be a great tool to give you that added push you need.
3. Think about your form.
As the miles increase, your energy will undoubtedly start to drop and therefore so will your form. This usually causes problems in many areas and can create structural distortions and muscle imbalances. To avoid falling too deep into this problem, try and feel your legs, feet and arms from mile 8 through 12 (and again from mile 16 to 23 if you are running the full marathon). Feel your foot strike the ground and make subtle changes if necessary. Keep your hands high and elbows moving back quickly. Keep your head up and back relaxed. Lean forward from the ankles, not the back. Run a “full body scan” on yourself and clean up any loose ends and congratulate yourself as you make the corrections.
4. Remember why you are doing this.
When I read the book Magical Running by Bobby McGee it changed the way I thought about running. With his book in mind I rewrote my most of my race goals two years ago and it made me a much happier runner. I can’t say that I would have “accepted” this approach years ago, but now that I’m a little more experienced (read older and wiser), I found this new way of thinking very helpful. My new goals in a specific order are: Have fun, finish, complete in xx:xx:xx time, recovery well, be excited to do more. I can’t say this will work for everyone but at some point in your year give it a try. I think you be surprised.
5. Control your thoughts.
I saved the toughest one for last. You have the option to make your race a good experience or bad experience. Try and focus on a mantra that works for you. Maybe try “Good job. Feeling good. It’s a great day to be alive. Keep moving. I’ve trained for this and I’m ready. Why not me? Hands high, fast turnover.” Another BIG tip: Don’t start judging your performance before the race is over. Many times we start doing the math in our head and it really doesn’t help us at all. Be present, be focused in the moment and you’ll enjoy the process so much more. Have an awesome race and congratulations on your efforts!
Dr. Michael Cerami owns Utah Sports and Wellness and has been a competitive triathlete for over 18 years. He is available for a no charge consultation one Saturday per month at The Salt Lake Running Company (700 East store) by appointment. He can be reached at 801-486-1818 or online at newsite.utahsportsandwellness.com