Racing with Confidence

It is impossible to be a successful runner without confidence. In order to run to the best of his or her ability a runner needs to have complete trust in his or her training and ability to run fast. But what does true confidence feel like?

A recent study in the Journal of Sports Science, provides quotes from athletes describing how they felt during their best, most confident performances. Here are some of the most interesting quotes:

“Me! And that was it. I ignored everyone else, I was just following my routines, being aware of the crowd but not being distracted by it, not thinking ‘Oh who’s doing what? Where am I? What’s the scoreboard saying?’’ All the kind of distractions which I was distracted by before. Just focusing on me and what I was doing.”

The ability to shut out distractions is so important. The key is to focus on the things you can control (i.e. staying relaxed during a race) and not worry about things that are out of your control (i.e. the abilities of your competitors). Another interesting quote from an elite figure skater:

When I skated well, I just skated well, I didn’t have to think about it, obviously I was confident and that’s why I didn’t have to think about it . . . So positive self-talk was almost a bad thing for me . . . you’ve got to try and be positive, but the fact that I was having to use positive self-talk told me I wasn’t in the right place.”

In other words, you are probably not in a confident state of mind if you constantly have to convince yourself that you have confidence. On the other hand, there is no way you will compete your best if you have negative thoughts running through your mind before and during a race. One athlete explained his mental state during one of his worst performances:

“I was a lot more negative than I would normally be, I was a lot more distracted by other athletes and what they were doing. Normally I follow a routine and I just stick to that and concentrate on it, but this time I was following my routine but I wasn’t buying into it as I normally do.”

The bottom line is that the greatest, most confident performances come when runners: (1) train well before a race and have trust in their training, (2) do not obsessively focus on distractions such as the crowd, the competition, the weather, and other things that they cannot control, (3) maintain a positive attitude about the race and do not allow negative thinking to sabotage their mental state, and (4) enter into a “zone” during the competition in which the mind becomes quiet and allows the body to do the work it was trained to do.

Pacing for Fast Racing
Overcoming Pre-Race Jitters