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How To Stay Strong In The Final Miles Of An Ultramarathon

run-race-signThe mind and its thoughts are a powerful force. They can support healing. They can promote disease.

How can you use some of your mind’s ability to support a strong finish during your next ultramarathon?

Let’s talk about one possible way worth trying, but first…

Body-Mind Partnership

I have had more than a couple experiences in longer run races when I begin to cramp, my heart rate goes up, and I lose running form in the final mile or two of a race. After being on my feat for 3, 5, 10+ hours, I sometimes get sloppy in the last mile(s)? I am not pushing any harder but the only difference is my mind starts thinking about the finish line. Hmm, could that be the problem?

Prior to the final miles, I am focused on the immediate task at hand (pacing, hydration, nutrition, footing, etc.). You could say, living in the present. There is an intimate partnership going on with the body and mind at this time. Communication between the two are synced-up.

When I lose my grasp on the present (finish line thoughts, etc), could this cause noise to be inserted in the body/mind communication channel? Thus unraveling the body functions (running form, breathing, pain management/filtering) that had received so much attention during the previous miles. These body functions may have now been subconsciously told to relax and start the post-race party before actually crossing the finish line. Why wouldn’t your body think this, if your mind is visualizing it?

How To Keep The Focus

I don’t know about you but it is hard not to think about the finish line when the mileage is down to a couple miles.

There is a simple strategy worth trying that may help keep you in the zone during the homestretch; mentally increase the distance of the race.

Don’t worry, this extra mileage will only occur in your mind.

Increase the distance of the race by 10% or some other value that works for you. For example,  a 50 km trail run is now 34 miles. A 50 mile trail run is 55 miles. Then mentally believe it is so.

This mental slight-of-hand will have you through the finish line before you have a chance to crumble.

Then let the party begin!

Have you used this technique before? If so, how has it worked for you?

Do you have other techniques to keep the focus during the final miles of a run race?

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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