There’s one thing beginner, seasoned, and pro runners have in common: We all hit roadblocks when it comes to training, and we’ve all hit a wall (or two or three) on race day. While preparation is key, there are so many factors out of our control, from weather to stomach issues to muscle cramps, that can affect even the best-laid plans. But how you get through these low moments is what can make or break your race.
Thanks to Hoka One One, we recently got the chance to chat with pro runners at the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) single-stage mountain ultramarathon. The 106-mile course is known for being one of the toughest, traversing through the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps. Knowing that these athletes have covered more miles than most of us could even imagine running (or want to run) in our lifetimes, we realized they’ve also experienced more roadblocks and hit more walls than most runners. So who better to get advice from for times when the going gets tough?
When you don’t feel like going for a training run…
Scrap the original plan.
“I regroup and have an extra cup of coffee. Maybe today isn’t the day to do the mileage I originally planned, so I just aim to get out the door and see how I feel. And usually once I start, my mood changes and I’m glad I got out there.”
—Magda Boulet, tied for 17th place in UTMB
Start with just a walk.
“If I don’t feel like it, I’ll just put my shoes on and start walking. I eventually say to myself, ‘Well, I’m not going to walk this,’ and I pick it up to a run. At the end I’m glad I did.”
—Jim Walmsley, 5th place in UTMB
Set a goal and keep it in mind.
“For me it’s all about setting a goal. So I sign up for a race or set a goal for the future. If I have a goal, it’s easier to get out the door and train.”
—Hayden Hawks, 1st place in CCC (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix, a 63-mile race, the same weekend as UTMB)
Remind yourself how you’ll feel post run.
“I always tell myself that I never regret a run after I do it. Once you start moving you feel better. You exercised, and that’s healthy for your body and mind. It helps to strengthen your self-discipline for the future, and the more you do, the better you perform. And it also makes you feel stronger mentally.”
—Sage Canaday, UTMB finisher
When you don’t have a lot of time, but you need to get in some miles…
Even a short run counts.
Schedule your runs into your planner.
“I always schedule out my day the night before. Whenever I have free time—whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour window—I run then. I tell myself I won’t be able to do this later and that motivates me. Plus, running is the time when I can enjoy the day and not think about all the other pressures in the world around me. It helps me to know that the run will benefit me the rest of the day.”
A half hour is more than enough.
Running can help relieve stress.
“This can be one of the biggest barriers, but it helps me knowing how happy I am after a run, and the stress is off my shoulders. I try to plan it into my schedule so I commit to it.”
When the race mileage is weighing on your mind…
Make smaller goals.
“It’s intimidating when you think about it as one big goal, but not if you break it down into smaller accomplishable goals. Then when you accomplish the little goals, you’ll think ‘look, I did this,’ and it will motivate you to keep going.”
Preparation is the key to success.
Keep yourself busy.
Worry about what you can control.
When you hit a wall…
Know you’re not alone.
Give the race respect and finish.
Remember that it’s temporary.
“It’s inevitable to have ups and down in a long race. But generally those moments pass. Remember you won’t get to the finish line by slowing down because the finish line isn’t going anywhere. Problem-solve with what you’re doing in the moment.”
Change up your goals.
When you’re starting to feel dehydrated…
Drink even when you’re not thirsty.
Take small sips.
Mix it up.
When your stomach starts to act up…
Go when you need to go.
Lay off the sugar.
Reset with H2O.
Don’t stop fueling.
When you start to get too much in your own head…
Adjust your gear.
One foot in front of the other.