I have not raced the mile in a long time–since college to be exact. Even then, I feel like I never really raced it. To be frank, I hated the mile; I just could not wrap my head around it. One mistake, one slight misstep and the race was done for you, and by done, I mean that you lost by 3s. I much preferred the 8k or 10k where you had 25 laps to make a move (and you burned more calories too).
The mile takes a different type of mental strength. While longer distances hurt, it is not the same type of muscular and mental pain that you face in an all out 5 min effort. It is hard to describe, but the mile is more lung pain with red, emergency lights flashing in your brain. It’s like you are drowning type of pain or like you are gasping for breath pain. Whereas the pain felt in longer distances is the “when is this going to end…Am I really only half way there” mental fatigue pain.
In honor of Canada Day, I decided to race the local mile race. It was a very low key race that was held in downtown Kingston with a few city blocks sectioned off that we would do two laps around. It was definitely a cool event and a good welcome to the running community here. We went off at the stroke of 10 with the ringing of church bells echoing through the limestone streets.
I set a personal best with a 4:45 mile (that is a good 15s off my college PR), but this PR did not come from being fitter physically. In my opinion, I was far fitter and in better running shape in college.
Rather this PR came from understanding the race and my mindset of the race. I embraced the suck as the expression goes.
Instead of dreading the pain that I knew was right about to ensue. I looked at the pain rather as sign that I was racing this race correctly. There will be pain in a race and just accepting that fact and making peace with it makes all the difference; there are no expectations that you will feel comfortable.
That mental switch was all that it took to turn my power boosters on. Because the race was only a mile, I knew the pain would eventually end, and I knew that I could continue to push my limits further always asking “Can you go a bit harder?”
A simple mental switch into power mode. All I had to do was to accept then pain and then refrain the pain into a sign of success.
So I will leave you with the mental image that crosses my mind in the last 10 seconds of every race:
I would NOT recommend this strategy for longer races. If you adapt this mentality for anything above a 5k then you are going way too fast. For longer races, I would refrain and embrace the pain in a different way.
I would more accept the fact that the race will hurt a bit but analyze it and honestly ask yourself “Can I hold onto this for the next 26 miles or 4 hours.” Then make modifications to your pace.
This is a strategy that I do and work on with my athletes before their big races and in key workouts, so if you ware interested or have questions send me an email at email@example.com or leave your comments below.