Admit it, long distance running is not only physically exhaustive, but also mentally-taxing. Boredom really strikes and sometimes, the greatest challenge is how to maintain your focus on the road.
I am not a fast runner but for every race that I run, my goal is to always cross the finish line. If you dread DNF (Did Not Finish) like me, you have to take every effort to keep moving in the race. It does not really matter how fast you have run; what counts is the distance that you have conquer ed and that you finish your race with dignity and pride.
Here are my eight personal tips that I hope will help you enjoy your next run. Feel free to add in the comments section anything that I might have missed.
1. Sightseeing on the road.
This is an active way of exploring new places. Running offers one of the best opportunities to navigate an unfamiliar city or town. Look at your left and right sides, beyond, and above to make sure you are not missing any exciting view on your route. Try to memorize the names of the streets, familiarize yourself with landmarks, and keep an eye on establishments that are interesting for your next visit. The latter may include a historical gallery, antique architectures, adventure parks, exotic restaurants, and so on. Some road-to-trail races offer relaxing vistas of nature which are great allurements to drive boredom away. When you ran past the finish line, you are not only a Finisher, but also an Explorer.
2. Cheer for the other runners.
Fun runs are effective rendezvous to disconnect from life’s distractions (Facebook). Immerse yourself in the real world by connecting with other runners. A cheerful smile and encouraging words to a struggling runner help raise the spirit. When someone does it to you, return the favor and reciprocate. Aside from runners there are also other people in the race, like the event marshals. Acknowledge their presence with a smile and thank them when they offer you a drink. You don’t just conquer the race, you also win friends. How does that sound to you?
3. Recite your mantra.
Mantras are short, positive words or statements that are meant to help you focus on what you are doing. When utilized with faith and consistency, mantras can be effective channels to veer your attention away from the physical pain that you might be enduring. By reciting your mantra, your mind captures the suggestion and fixes itself on it. Mind really matters. Remember what Peter said to Wendy, “You just think lovely, wonderful thoughts and they lift you up in the air.”
4. Pace with a friend.
This is exactly what I employed during my first full marathon. I was fortunate to meet someone at the starting line, who happened to be running a marathon also for the first time. Running with a buddy can be rewarding because you have someone beside from whom you can draw immediate motivation. If your buddy is faster than you, there is also the positive pressure to keep abreast so your performance gets a boost.
5. Listen to your vital signs.
When I get tired, I usually listen to my breathing and to the beating of my heart. These alone are beautiful music to my ears, music that will never stop playing (even long after the love story has ended). Their rhythm delivers a powerful message to my brain that I am strong and I can finish the race. Feel your pulse and synchronize your pace with it.
6. Brainstorm in your head.
This may sound strange, but it immensely helps me from drifting away in the race. I think of something (a project or an adventure) that I want to do in the coming days; then, I start planning and organizing the details of it while running. This exercise helps me stop counting every kilometer that I have ran past with. Before I knew it, I am already few meters away from the finish line. It also saves time, for the moment I reach the culmination of the race, I have already killed two birds with one stone.
7. Plug music to your ears.
If you are comfortable wearing a myriad of accessories in your body while running, surely your musical device will not be left off. Listening to music with a fast bit rate energizes the mind which eventually translates to physical energy needed to keep you going. For those who are more extrovert when running, you can take advantage of all the auditory stimuli that you might encounter throughout the race. What is that one sound that you love hearing when you are running? For me, it is the sound of determined soles striking on the ground.
8. Smile at the cameras.
They are watching you. Just like the Orwellian Big Brother who watches your every move, imagine that cameras are lurking and are ready to snap a photograph of you. You don’t want to be caught walking and suffer the bullying of your friends, do you? You don’t want to gaze at that stolen shot of yours, while you were standing by, as if you were carrying the world on your shoulder, do you? Filipinos are addicted to “picture taking” and the modern selfie world dictates that your “cutest” and “prettiest” picture receives the most likes and favorites. Races are now more exciting with the presence of photographers around. So, always wear that smile and project that running image you will always want to look at.