Running, What Carries You To The Finish Line?

Chrissie Wellington is an elite athlete. She has won the triathlon event, the Ironman, three years in a row in a race that is made up of a 3.8km swim, followed by a 180km bike ride, and then finishes with a marathon (26.2 mile run). Her record breaking time in 2009 was 8:54:02 and while that sounds like a long period of time, most competitors will be racing for over 11 hours.

The following section describes how Wellington managed to deal with all those hours competing.

As Wellington ran she used a number of mental tricks to propel her towards the finishing line. In her head she went over and over the lyrics from “Circle of Life” from the Lion King, Leona Lewis’s “A Moment Like This” and Queen’s “We are the Champions”. “Quite embarrassing, really,” she says. “Shows my total lack of taste in music.” She also recited stanzas from Rudyard Kipling’s “If” – a poem which was given to her by Sutton, the dog-eared photocopy of which she still takes to every race. “Because when you’re 30k into the marathon,” she says, “it’s not your body that’s carrying you, it’s your mind.”

Guardian – Chrissie Wellington interview: The iron lady, 2 January 2011

Singing songs and reciting poetry are the techniques used by this champion. What are some other techniques? Feel free to share what you do to keep sane and focused while competing over a long period of time.

One response to “Running, What Carries You To The Finish Line?”

  1. I don’t quite compete over that length of time but for marathons I tend to spend the time doing maths. Based on the last mile I ran I try to calculate my finish time if I ran every mile the same. So if I run the first mile in 6:57 I then try to calculate 25 x 6:57min to get my finish time. As that’s an awkward sum it takes quite a bit of time and concentration. Tiredness and dehydration can make the maths harder at times. I once convinced myself towards the end fo a race that 4 x 7min was 21. I kept re-doing the sum in my head and coming to the same result. In hindsight I wasn’t far from complete exhaustion and my mind was giving up.

    My other tactic is to create scenarios about the person in front of me. Usually I imagine them as hateful low-lifes that deserve to be overtaken. That helps from a competetive point of view.

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