Monday, May 13, 2013

The Art of Racing Through Pain

There's no way to sugarcoat it - racing hurts. It doesn't matter if your fast pace is a 6 minute mile or a 12 minute mile or if you're racing a 5k or marathon - if you're pushing with all you've got, it's going to hurt (mile 2.5 of a 5k) before it feels good (crossing the finish line with a new PR). 

To be clear, I'm not talking about pushing through an actual injury such as a strain, sprain, break, etc. The type of pain I'm referring to is of the burning-lungs-and-legs-I'm-might-lose-my-breakfast-on-the-side-of-the-course variety.

Working the furrowed brow/in pain/I will not let that Santa pass me look!

I'm by no means a running expert. But I do race a lot and along the way, I've picked up a few handy tips for the average runner when it comes to working through race pain. Here are a few tips:
  1. Before the race starts, allow yourself think, This is going to hurt. And then that's it. Accept it without focusing or worrying about it. 
  2. Have a mantra ready for when the race gets tough. Ones I've used in the past include "I breathe in strength, I breathe out weakness" "Pay the price" and "The tides will turn". Use whatever works for you - preferably a mantra you've used during training.
  3. Count to 100. Repeat as necessary.
  4. Embrace the pain. Remind yourself that feeling uncomfortable is a good thing and this is how it feels to lay it all on the line. If it feels easy, it means you can push harder.
  5. Remember everyone around you is likely feeling as bad or maybe even worse than you. You're in this together! 
  6. Try to relax. Un-hunch those shoulders. Relax your arms and hands. Focus on your stride - quick leg turnover and landing under your core - not overstriding.
  7. Recall the tough workouts that you were able to push through. You made it through training and you can make it through this race.
If all else fails, just remind yourself there's likely a nice grassy area to collapse in after you cross the finish line and tasty treats to be eaten once you recover. 

Macarons anyone?

You've earned it!

I'd like to know . . . What tricks do you use to push through race pain?

I don't listen to music during races, but if I did, I would probably add cranking up the volume on my iPod to the list :)

- ST


  1. You don't listen to music? Even for races longer than a 5k? Crazy, music is one of the only things that gets me through. Focusing on just a few feet ahead of me instead of the end of the race helps too -- accomplishing those little goals along the ways helps push me through.

    1. I find I get too distracted when I listen to music during a race - I like to be able to hear if someone is coming up behind me or how people around me are breathing. I don't use it during training (except when I run on the treadmill) so a race is no different!

  2. Replies
    1. Best cookie ever! I took a look at your blog and your pumpkin coconut oats recipe looks awesome!

  3. I would die without music! :-) Sometimes I try to pick someone out that is running my pace or a bit faster than I would like to run and concentrate on him/her and keeping her in my sights. Usually I pick someone that is dressed a little outrageously, sparkly clothes or neon colors. I also alternate between focusing on my surroundings or focusing on my breathing. Anything to keep my mind busy and off the pain!

    1. Picking someone out who is dressed outrageously is a good one! Also a good way to run a bit faster to catch up and pass :)

  4. These tips are SO good! I especially love this one:

    "Embrace the pain. Remind yourself that feeling uncomfortable is a good thing and this is how it feels to lay it all on the line. If it feels easy, it means you can push harder."

    It's so empowering to know that you're doing something that makes you uncomfortable because you are TOUGH!