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Running at the Mouth

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Running at the Mouth

with Margot Manning

Racing tricks you need to keep running fast

It’s racing season!!!! 

I love this time of the year because to me, racing is a game.  Doesn’t matter if it’s for a PB, a place, or the challenge to run a further distance.  The thrill in racing is seeing WHAT I can make myself do on the training that I’ve managed.  HOW I achieve this,  is by creating a number of mid-race ‘tricks’.   These keep me FOCUSED on the overall racing game plan and to enjoy every experience. 

Here are two key strategies you can use to keep you running fast.   

1.  A Focus Mindset

2. The Physical Manifestation of your Focus

Your Focus MINDSET

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional” Haruki Murakami. 

Everyone experiences pain.  If you can recognise this in advance your ability to cope with the inevitable mid-race fatigue will be so much easier.  You can even calm your pre-race nerves by PLANNING what you might think about in different stages of the race.  Strategies such as mantras you can repeat, songs to keep you upbeat, pre-planning ‘brain breaks’ with family or drink stops are fantastic ‘tricks’ to at least have ready to employ. 

Your race game is trying to APPLY these when your head is filled with chatter that is getting louder and more incessant.  This is not easy and takes practice…. And just because it worked once does not mean it will work the same every time.  The fun of a racing mindset is taking your planning while allowing space to be a little creative because there is no one right way.  


We are human and most of us are recreational runners. 

This ability to push into a mindset zone is really hard.   This is where Strategy #2 is needed. 

The Physical Manifestation of your Focus… 

In other words, focusing on the actual act of your running.  Since our brains are impossible to always keep doing what we want, you have to look for physical cues that give a sensory feedback.   Breathing, running form, leg cadence (turn over), hip positions, arm actions.  These are all fantastic triggers you can change.

Steve Monaghetti’s tip quoted in Runners World was: If you start to lose focus and motivation, run an internal checklist; ‘How is my breathing?’, ‘Are my legs and shoulders relaxed? ‘– this will get your concentration back and you’ll perform better.”

Your challenge is to find what is easiest to concentrate on and try to use this to your advantage. 

Despite our best efforts there is always going to be a point in the race when your body is spent.  That’s ok.  The point is that you have played the game.  If you have at least tried some of these tricks and strategies, then you will always walk away a winner… and be even better prepared for your next racing game. 

Celebrate your ‘wins’, process your losses, but most of all enjoy your fun run season.

I can’t wait to hear about yours. 

Margot Manning

P.S.  My favourite racing mantra is from Sia’s song The Greatest…   “I Don’t give up, I Won’t Give up” because this helps me create a shift in focus from tiring to recommitting to my greater race goal. 

What’s yours?   Email me at [email protected]

P.P.S.  Want more advice to get your running goals… Hear the “How to Craft Memorable Running Experiences”  Run Talk Series with Steve & Margot Manning. Sign up here.


Each of these runners were asked ‘what was your most successful or favourite mid-race strategy you used to stay focuses and keep you going when you start to fatigue mid-race?”

This is what they Say…

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Clay Dawson, Marathon champion, 2:26 PB

CLAY DAWSON, Marathon Champion, 2:26 PB

“In a recent marathon I found that when my body was screaming to stop, I would rotate the following thoughts through my mind until one stuck.  These included:

#1   Family – Michelle and Jasper… seeing them happy, proud…  and sooner!!

#2  Realising that ALL pain ends.  It comes in waves and I know it WILL subside.  This perseverance is what you TRAIN for.

#3  This is something you WANT, and WHEN you finish you will be prouder for having stuck it out

#4  You’ve earned this pain…  take a moment to live in it and appreciate the hours and hours of training that led to it!

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Aidan Hobbs, Fastest parkrunner in Queensland, June 2018 5km in 14:34

AIDAN HOBBS, Fastest Parkrunner in Queensland, 14:34mins,  June 2018

Aidan took his advice from his training mate, Brendan Press….

“Brendan gave me some good advice…  He told me, ‘When you race, everything around you causes you to tense up- keeping up with others, running past crowds yelling “GO!!) 

What you should be doing mid-race is the exact opposite.  You should be calm, relaxed and allow yourself to be pulled along so that you can conserve energy for the end. ‘Now, whenever I start to get fatigued or tense up mid-race, I remember to just relax and smile.”


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Emily Donker, Professional Triathlete, winner 2019 Tweed Enduro

EMILY DONKER, Professional Triathlete, winner 2019 Tweed Enduro

“When struggling during a race I will generally float between trying to be really focused on the process…  or the total opposite… 

#1  Thinking about something unrelated to distract myself. 

#2  Staying as relaxed as possible, controlled breathing and trying to maintain good cadence

#3  I take into account the hard sessions I’ve done and use experiences of getting through those sessions to stay confidence in my ability.  “

“I love competing, so try to enjoy the pain as best as possible!  One of my favourite quotes from Laura Siddall is that she reminds herself that its; her choice to race and to train all the hours she does.  SO rather than thinking that she has to go out for a ride for 5 hours, she tells herself that she gets to go out riding for 5 hours.

PHIL TEAKLE, Recreational Runners and 3:36 marathoner (Mt Cook)

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Phil Teakle
Recreational runner and 3:36 marathoner (Mt Cook)

#1 I think about my form – am I running as efficiently as possible?

            –  relax my arms and shoulders

            –  thinking about running tall, how my fee land comfortably under me and driving forward.  I always think of one coach who said, ‘look after your form and your pace will look after itself’

#2  I distract myself from thinking how tired I am.  The Mt Cook marathon was easy – I just looked up at the scenery.   I think about my family and that always lifts my spirits

#3  Sometimes I have a milestone time – sub 20 minutes for 5km and once it was a sub 4 hour marathon.  The dread of having to go through that again if I fall hosrt after all the time and training I’ve invested is quite motivating!… I always ended up doing them again anyway

#4  Making up some competitions:  focusing on someone up ahead to try to overhaul, or denying someone I think is trying to do the same to me. 

Leah Belson 150x150 2
Leah Belson, recreational triathlete, runner and Ironman triathlete

LEAH BELSON, Recreational Runner triathlete and Ironman triathlete

#1   set out a pace or time plan at the beginning of the race.  For example:  Run 10 mins / walk  1 min and repeat…   OR Run 2km, walk through drink stations.  I write this on my arm and set up my watch to buzz at me.  It’s good to use the drink station as markers if your technology stop working. 

#2  When fatigue hits, I remind myself that it’s just like a hill.  At some point I’ll be at the top and then I get to go down…   and I feel better.  It does not last!!

#3  I relax my shoulders.  Once I do that I realise everything else has been tend and I start running a little smoother

#4  I look at the cadence of the person in front of me and try to match it by taking smaller steps. 

#5  I take a moment to remember that when I started running, my 1km time was over 10 minutes…  then I give my self a pat on the back and  try to smile

#6 I thank the volunteers

#7  I dedicate the next light post or street sign to my son (who would run if he could) and my brother (who loved to run but is not with us any longer) – and get to those signs breathing well and smiling. 

For a great read …    “What I talk about when I talk about Running” by Murakami, published 2009.