Trust Your Fitness
In the spring of 2007 I qualified for my second USA Track & Field Championships in the 10,000 meters. While I had competed in this same event a year earlier, I was still in awe that I would lining up with the best 10K runners in the country.
My training and racing had been going well, and I had honed a consistent, negative-split racing strategy that helped me place high in even the most competitive races. But as I sat in my hotel room the night before the race and looked at the entry list, all confidence in my training and fitness began to wane. I scrolled my finger down the list and analyzed the well-known runners I would be competing against the next day: Galen Rupp, Meb Keflezighi, Abdi Abdirahman, Dathan Ritzenhein, Ryan Hall — I was going to get my butt kicked.
By the time I toed the line that Saturday evening, the confidence I had in my fitness and my race plan was non-existent. When the gun sounded, I ditched my race plan and just stuck myself in the middle of the pack, “hoping” I would run well and others would fade away. As the race began to heat up after 5K I found myself questioning my fitness — not the mindset you want to have midway through your biggest race of the season. When a runner would pass me I began thinking to myself, “Geez, these guys are fast. What am I doing here? They aren’t going to come back to me.”
When the dust finally settled, I finished in second to last place in the slowest 10K time of my career. If I had only trusted my training and my race strategy by running the race I knew I was capable of, I would have finished in the top-10.
To consistently run well, it’s critical that you have an unwavering belief in your fitness and your race plan. When you line up at your next race, don’t let that “really fit looking runner” derail your own self-confidence and don’t get sucked into starting too fast because you’re worried your negative split race strategy won’t work.
I’ve written a few articles on the power of self-belief and mental training that can help you maintain your confidence when you begin to doubt yourself. Practice these mental strategies in training and implement them on race day to ensure that you always trust your fitness.