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5 tips to help you mentally during the toughest parts of the Cork marathon this weekend

Relax and enjoy it.
May 31st 2018, 11:03 AM 4,139 1

A MULTIPLE NCAA Division II All-American and winner of several national titles, elite runner Scott Bauhs dedicated his professional career to “perfecting the marathon.”

The American to complete both the four-minute mile and the 28-minute 10,000-meter run in 2008 while at Chico State, and went on to race in the 2011 World Track and Field Championships.

Here’s what he had to say about dealing with the mental challenges of a marathon:

1. Don’t zone out — think about the race

How do marathoners pass the time? Anyone who hasn’t run a marathon might assume runners are zoning out, daydreaming of beer at the finish line or a triple-cheese pizza waiting on their kitchen table.

Not the case, according to Bauhs. While it does depend on the runner and his or her motivations, Bauhs says many serious runners are spending most of the race thinking about their pace, hitting splits, and monitoring their competitors.

“For the most part, I’m not thinking about much outside of the race. I’m ignoring just about everything except for the road in front of me and the guys around me, and then trying to assess how I feel and pay attention to the course,” he says.

Bauhs doesn’t listen to music when he runs. He’s never actively trying to zone out when running, he says, because he has to be focused, at least somewhat, at all times.

A view from this year's Belfast City Marathon Source: Presseye/INPHO

2. Tune out distractions by sizing up your competitors

“When there’s a crazy-looking person screaming and waving signs on the side of the road, or when you run through a city you can’t help but notice big landmarks and people like that,” Bauhs says.

How does he stay focused with crowds of people shouting, ringing cowbells, and offering high-fives for 26 miles? He assesses the competition.

“You see it, you acknowledge it, but when I’m racing I’m focusing on the task at hand. I’m looking at the runners around me and gauging how they’re feeling,” he says. “Is their breathing laboured or is their form breaking down?

“Staying with a pack running at a pace close to his own is key in a marathon, Bauhs explains, so he’s constantly trying to assess whether he’s running next to the right people. He looks at runners’ posture and how they’re holding their arms to judge their physical condition.

“If their posture is pretty straight, and their arm movements are snappy, you see they look like they’re still full of energy. If they’re starting to droop more, and it looks forced to keep the same rhythm they’ve been maintaining, they’re starting to lose energy.”

3. Focus on the hard work you put in to stay motivated

For Bauhs, watching a cluster of runners pull away from him and being unable to respond physically is one of the most mentally difficult moments in a marathon. He says it’s hard to stay focused on putting his best effort forward and fight the urge to give up when this happens.

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s gotten a little bit easier to recognise that it’s a temporary challenge,” he says. “I still have a race to run, so I just need to try to get to the finish line as quickly as possible and then learn from my mistakes, or just try to train harder for the next one.”

What motivates him to keep going when he’s exhausted or feeling defeated?

“For me, it’s all the hard work that you put into it, and again, knowing that the goal is just to get to the finish line,” Bauhs says.

“It’s also the hard work that my coaches and family members and friends have put in — what they have invested in my success,” he says. “That’s what gets me to the finish line.”

4. It’s more important to finish hard than start fast

“I’ve never gone out too slow in a race before, but I’ve certainly gone out too fast many, many times,” Bauhs says.

Runners can often make up a lot of ground in the last eight to 10 miles of a race if they’re feeling good, he explains, stressing the importance of staying relaxed and being patient through the beginning of a race.

“You want to run an aggressive pace at the beginning if you can, but it’s a lot better to finish hard than it is to start hard and finish at a much slower pace.”


5. Try to relax as much as possible

The best piece of advice Bauhs ever received goes all the way back to the very beginning of his career.

“When I was in high school, my coach would just say to me, ‘relaxed is fast,”’ he says. “And that has really rung true throughout my entire career.”

When Bauhs starts overthinking and worrying, races tend to be a little bit tougher, he says. When he goes into a race very relaxed, it’s a completely different — and much smoother — experience. In the most physically and mentally challenging moments of a marathon, he’s trying to stay relaxed and always remembering one very important thing — how grateful he is to be doing what he loves.

“From the very first race that I’ve ever run, I’ve been doing this for fun,” he says. “I’ve been blessed to take it pretty far, but still, the point in doing this is because it’s fun. So, I just try to stay relaxed and appreciate being able to run these races.”

- Business Insider

A version of this article first appeared on The42 in 2016.

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