Guest Blogger Christina Torres

I knew this race would be tough as soon as I opened my eyes.

I woke up with a bad attitude. Somehow, my phone had wedged right next to my ear as I slept, causing the alarm to blare directly at me far earlier than it normally does. I was tired, I was cranky, I hadn’t really been running in a few weeks, and my horoscope app said it was going to be a bad day anyway. Why try and fight that?

Still, I’m a firm believer in what my Dad used to remind my brother and I all the time: Life is 10% what happens to you, 90% your attitude about it. So, when a race gets tough, or you’re just looking to get in a good mental space for any race, here are 3 maybe-not-so-usual ways to get back in the game.

1) Find the Blessings – Racing is supposed to be fun. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the time/speed details of a race. Are my splits right? When’s the next water station? What’s that weird cramp in my shin!?

When I start doing this, I normally try and do something to stay positive during a race. Joanna, The SF Marathon Social Media Guru-ess, mentioned that she and a friend will jam to loud music on a portable Boombotix speakers to motivate fellow runners. Some other people make it a point to make silly faces or pose for photos as you go.

As for me, I make it a point to thank each and every one of the volunteers who hands me water or directs me. I try and thank people who have signs too, because both of those are pretty thankless tasks for people doing awesome things.

Oh, and if the crowd is quiet at the end of the race, I usually do my best to try and get them cheering by yelling “[city of the race] LET ME HEAR YOU!!” or dancing around and waving my arms. It also breaks up the monotony if I’m starting to lose my own motivation. Will it maybe get me off my pace or cause me to lose my breathing for a minute? Sure. That said, I also find that when I’m happy and having fun, I run faster, which is what I was worried about in the first place!

2) Find a Race Intention - This is something that I stole from yoga, but totally love doing. I try to race, mentally, in honor of someone or something. For my first marathon, it was my older brother, who inspires me always to just be better. For my first SF marathon, it was my parents, who just provide unending support always. Any time the race got tough, I imagined them running next to me, cheering me on, and smiling.

By dedicating the race to someone or something, you take the focus off yourself and look at the bigger picture. What inspires you? What’s motivating you to keep going? When things get rough, this is a great way to get back on a positive mental track.

3) Smile, darnit! – This is one is probably the quickest and simplest, but (for me) most difficult to do. When you’re focused and running hard, it’s easy to contort your face in to all sorts of funny things as your work your body to its peak performance. I’m definitely like that (I have a HORRID picture of the end of my first half marathon, where I have literally contorted my face into a monster. Clearly, it became my Facebook profile picture). The thing is, when you do that, you create a lot of tension in your face muscles, especially your jaw (for me, it will even extend to my arms! Boo!). Excess tension is never good, and can even cause you to unnecessarily injure yourseld.

So, smile! It’ll immediate soften your facial muscles and force your body to loosen up a little. It’ll also force you to refocus some of you’re energy, which can be really helpful on a long race. Besides, your race photos will look better.

So, as the race season starts heating up, fellow runners, I hope these tips help you when times get hard. If you have any tips YOU use to have a great race, share them out!

Oh, as for the race I wrote about in the beginning? Yeah, it was hard– but I guess races can get tough when you eventually PR them. ;) But that’s something I’ll have to write about on my own blog.