Last week I ran the London 10 Mile. I think it’s safe to say that most runners have hit the dreaded wall in one race or another. Sometimes you can see it slowly building in front of you as the pace on your watch gets slower. Other times, things will be going fine and then suddenly BAM! You find yourself smashing into it. I have lightly bumped the wall a few times before but during the London 10 mile I dived into it head first. It really hurt. It’s funny how one week i’m the first lady home and the next week I’m struggling to make it to the finish line. My body can handle 10 miles easily but I wasn’t prepared for the toll that the hilly course would take on my mind.
I didn’t even make it to the 5 mile mark before the wall came crashing down on me and I knew I was in trouble. But as I looked at the runners around me, I knew that they were in trouble too and we all had to work together to pull through. Surprisingly I crossed the finish line in 78 minutes which was just a few minutes shy of the time I was actually aiming for but oh how I had to summon an unbelievable amount of mental strength to keep going. My legs were fine but my head had gone and took my legs with it. If that makes sense?
If you’re training for a race and want to know how to avoid hitting the dreaded wall or how to push through it, here are a few tips that I used on Sunday to help my mind to focus on the race and silence the voice of doom in my head.
Study the course
I hadn’t been to Richmond park before and we were given very little information about the course which meant that no one was prepared for the climbs. Each hill felt like Mount Everest. If I knew about the hills, I would have set off at a much slower pace than I did. I was aiming for a quick time so I ran the first 5km in less than 22 minutes which is a reasonable time for me…but not when hills are involved! Study the course and ask around to see if anyone has ever done the race before. The last thing you want is to be faced with a few surprises on the way to throw you off pace! Better still, try to include part of the course in your training runs. I know that a lot of runners do this during the London Marathon because it helps to settle nerves and ease any feelings of uncertainty that you might have on the day.
Listen to the crowd
I can’t tell you how much my heart bursted with pride when I saw someone reading my race badge and then shouting “You’re doing amazing, Tashi. You’re almost home”. This helped to propel me forward during the London 10 Mile. And I am so glad that I was able to hear the kind voices over my music because without them I would have struggled even more. Assemble a cheer squad and if your loved ones can’t make it, be sure to have your bib number on show so that people can shout out your name when you run past. I never really understood why people run without music but I do now. The passionate cheer of a stranger is everything that you need to help break through the wall.
Have a killer playlist
That being said, a strong music playlist also works wonders when your mind is telling you to stop. Since I started racing last year, I have identify the kind of songs that I enjoy listening to and which ones I find annoying. Its a process of trial and error but you will get here. At the moment I like listening to R&B and Hip Hop with a slow beat. Chance the Rape, Drake and Kanye feature heavily on my playlist but there is also a sprinkle of Rick Ross in there to help me power through tougher runs. Refresh your playlist after each run to make sure you didn’t get bored. Which songs worked and which songs need to go? Always make sure that you have more songs on your playlist than necessary too because you never know how long your race might last.
Talk to everyone and anyone! Offer words of encouragement to yourself and those around you because runners of all abilities hit the wall. You don’t know just how much someone is struggling so be kind to your fellow runners. If you catch an eye, spur them on. If you run past a friend or vice versa, tell them to keep going and let them know you’re suffering. In turn they will offer their own words of encouragement and it’s always nice to hear a familiar voice in times of needs. I also talk to myself too! “Come on Tashi, we can do this. Stop feeling sorry for yourself” is what I said during the London 10 Mile.
Trust your ability
After I finished running, people commented on how strong I looked during the home straight. Little did they know that 20 minutes before hand my race had fallen to pieces. But I broke through the wall with 2 miles to go, picked up the pace and ran home. If it’s a distance that you’ve trained for or covered before, know that the moment will pass. Slow down if need be but always try your best not to walk. I know that if I turn off the intensity and start to walk, my race is over so I slow down by a minute per KM maximum. But sometimes the wall does get the best of us. It has happened to Paula Radcliffe many times during the Olympics but thats running for you. Sometimes when we run, we feel like athletes. And other times running a mile feels like a marathon. So when this happens, stretch, foam roll and soak your tired legs in Epsom salts. Not every race is going to be a good one, just give it your best shot.
The London 10 Mile was a challenging one but it was actually a really beautiful course! Let me know if you’ve got any tips on how to break through the wall!