Distract yourself to stay mentally fresh on long races

On long races, the miles can seem to stretch on forever, and it can be mentally draining to try to picture the whole race let alone picture yourself finishing it.

Endurance racers know there are ways to keep your mind off the distance so you can stay mentally fresh. A few of them share their strategies:

1. Take it in segments. Explains mega-mega-marathoner Norm Frank, who has completed more than 600 marathons: "Sometimes I get mentally drained around mile 20 or so in a marathon. And to get through, I break the race into segments. At 20, I think, I've only got six miles to go, and that's just 24 laps of a quarter-mile track. At 23, I think, I've only got 12 laps left. Anytime I'm tired, I tend to do that take it in segments. Laps are a lot easier to swallow than miles, especially at the end."

"The first 100-miler I ever tried, I didn't finish, because I tried to fit 100 miles in my head and couldn't," says Ann Trason, who subsequently went on to win the women's division of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run a whopping eight times. "It was just too much. So now, I never let myself think of the total distance. I really push it aside and play games with the miles instead."

2. Build a mental construct surrounding your run to reframe the run and the pain. For instance, divide your 12-miler into three four-mile segments. During the first segment, design and build your dream home. During the second, move in and decorate it.

And during the third? Landscape your estate. (This is your dream home, remember.) The engineer within should be so busy with the wiring, he won't even notice the whining without.

"When I run Western States (100-mile Endurance Run), I think of the distance as a lifetime," Trason explains. "During the first few miles, I pretend I'm an infant just learning how to walk. During the next stage, I imagine I'm an adolescent, running wild. When I hit the canyons, which are incredibly tough, at mile 45, I think, I'm having a midlife crisis. But that's OK, because I'm in my 40s and should be having a midlife crisis!

"And when I hit 90 miles, I think, why am I feeling so bad? It's because I'm 90! Even at that point, I don't think about the race being 100 miles. It's still too early. I only let the final distance enter my mind around mile 93, when I'm less than a decade away."

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