Racing — Thinking and racing, not such a good thing

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert joins us this week to handle a couple of reader e-mails. Here is an inquiry that is common to many runners:

I am a 15 yr old soph. I have been running for 2-3 years. Last year as a freshman I ran a 4:42-1600m I also ran a 10:23-3200m in track. I am currently running about an 18 minute 5000m in XC. I am a Mathematics nerd and when I run track it’s easy for me to know where I am and what I need to finish. It isn’t the same in XC. It is a lot more random for me and I don’t have a clear gauge in my brain. All of the guys I can beat in track are beating me by a minute to a minute and a half. My coach says I have the endurance and says to quit thinking so much. Have you ever heard of this and do you have any suggestions PLEASE. League and State are coming up and I am the fifth man and really need to improve.

Ryan – well, hats off to your coach – he’s right. In the world of mental game coaching we work a lot with “thinkers.” I know this VERY well since my college coach told me more than 30 years ago – “you’re a thinker and that’s why you’re not beating him.” So from one thinker to another here’s your answer.

Let’s start with a basic premise that has to be made very clear. Practice is the time to perfect – perfect your form, calculate splits, hit splits, think about race strategies and tactics. Racing on the other hand is time to race. Period. Though there are some thoughts of course that go on during a race they are purely race-related. That means you can think about covering someone’s moves or making your own at a given point in a race or being smart and tucking behind someone to draft on a windy day. Notice the difference? It is more about reacting and doing… not thinking. Form means nothing – just win ugly – what counts is the win. Later on analyze and work on form, etc.

The problem with thinkers is that they over analyze what is happening. While they analyze they lose the intensity of competition. Lose a step, then it’s two and three… often then it gets your mind to think about being behind; that feeds on itself in a bad downward spiral.
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