Whether the race is a sprint, middle distance or a marathon, running is a very mental sport. The sport is mentally challenging because of the confidence, composure, concentration, and often times pushing through physical pain that it requires.

The Broad Street Run is challenging in another way because it is a 10-mile race. Some runners train for 5k and 10k races. Others train for half marathons or full marathons. But a 10-mile distance is different, if not unique and thus preparation requires not only a different physical training regimen, but also the development of a different mental game plan in terms of pacing oneself, tactics, etc.

There is also a unique mental challenge for the anticipated 20,000 runners who have never run as long as 10 miles before. When running a longer distance than ever before, there are certain "mental blocks" that one has to overcome. The most common mental block would be fear of failure. That is to say, setting a new goal for oneself and experiencing some of the disappointment and perhaps embarrassment if one is not able to finish the race and achieve the goal.

The sport psychology mental skill that helps best with this mental block is "positive self-talk."  This refers to mentally preparing a key word or phrase that one can repeat to oneself during a race for the purpose of calming down and relaxing. Common positive self-talk phrases might include:

  • "give me the courage to do the best that I can do"
  • "stay patient and calm"
  • "trust myself and my preparation."

Setting a goal of finishing in a specific time can sometimes be a positive motivator, but not always. Some athletes improve their concentration and focus by having a targeted time goal to shoot for. But for other runners, having a specific time goal can become a distraction and undermine confidence and composure during the race if one becomes too fixated on the time goal. For these runners, stress and anxiety can result from falling too far behind the time goal or being way ahead of the time goal.

In sport psychology we talk about setting multiple goals for a race like the Broad Street Run. Finishing in a certain time may be one such goal, but it's also helpful to set goals in the areas of learning and improving from the race, being a good teammate if need be, enjoying the experience and appreciating one's health to compete. When a runner defines success through multiple goals, he/she is more likely to respond in a more relaxed way, increasing the chances to run to one's potential.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.