A Runner Needs to Be Confident…

Ryan Hall, less than a week away from the US Marathon Trials, recently wrote, “I constantly remind myself that resting takes confidence. Anyone can train like a mad man but to embrace rest and to allow all the hard training to come out takes mental strength.” And it’s true.
male runner
When I was racing I loved it, don’t get me wrong. The excitement building up, the little buzz that rushes through you RIGHT before the gun goes off, but I HATED tapering. The extra energy left me bouncing off the walls (at least inside my mind) and I’d get antsy. I’d want to run more than the workouts prescribed, I didn’t, but I suuuure as heck wanted to.

Self restraint as a runner seems like an element that comes with age and experience. It’s important but I think it has to be learned on your own, sort of like you have to just let the new runners in our sport discover this lesson the hard way. You can tell a person something all you want but it doesn’t really hit home until they see what happens when you DON’T listen. Trial by fire I guess.

Some people it takes a few fires before they get it. Another major factor in learning self-restraint is exactly what Hall stated, and that’s confidence.

* It takes MORE confidence in your ability to back off when you need to.
* It takes more confidence that you’ve put in all the necessary work and then taper before races than it does to doubt that you’re not quite ready and try to pound out one more workout before the race.
* It takes more confidence to rest or stop a run/workout short if you’re on the verge of an injury.
* It takes more confidence to be patient.
woman runner
And here we’ve worked our way to patience. Patience in both racing and workouts.

Now, I’m a big fan of Prefontaine and running gutsy, I like an honest race pace as much as the next person, but there is a difference between going out hard from the gun because you can and just blitzing out like a bat out of hell and running a kamikaze mission of sorts. The blow-up comes a mile or two later and the monkey jumps on your back.

Going out too fast for you ability is lacking patience and to a degree confidence. Sure, it’s easy to let nerves and excitement carry you away and go out too fast, but after that there’s a lack of confidence. You are afraid that if you don’t try and go out hard, try to gap the field NOW, you’re never going to win. Or you’re never going to be able to keep up or run the time you want…you’re trying to build a cushion in case you slow down later.

That doesn’t work. Have the confidence to be patient, go out smart and pick it up as the race progresses.

Patience comes into play for workouts too, you shouldn’t be racing your workouts. If you go to the well every time out you’re going to be too zapped to race well. In an interview I did with Ryan’s wife Sara Hall, also a professional runner, she admits to struggling with this in the past, “I’m also going to make a conscious effort to run my hard workouts at the appropriate energy level. I’m notorious for ‘racing my workouts’ because I really enjoy running really hard, and I’ve been in the camp
for a while that ‘faster is better’ and ‘a lot faster is even better’.” Coming off her Gold at the Pan Am Games in the Steeplechase and going forward she’s working on that, “But I’m going to try to communicate with Dena [Evans] what pace exactly I need to run and try to run that instead of running all out, whatever time that is. It takes confidence and self-control, but I know it will pay off in the long run.”


Be confident in yourself.

Patience takes confidence. And a runner needs confidence.

1) How have you learned to be confident as a runner?

2) Do you like or hate tapering for a race?

3) How do you exercise patience and confidence in both races and workouts?

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18 thoughts on “A Runner Needs to Be Confident…

  1. love this because we all have to learn this the hard way, i know that i have. this was a wonderful post, and it was just what i needed for one of my clients that insists running every day is necessary for progress. they think i’m crazy telling them to take days off, and i’m glad i’m not the only one who finds it valuable 🙂

  2. I have never run a race, but I have learned so much with the running that I have done. This is such a great post! I am always wanting to just push through the pain and keep going. My body is nearly 37 years old and I know it has limits. What I have learned the most is to embrace my rest days. To actually “rest” and take the time to allow my body to heal and get stronger. 🙂 Thanks Cait!

    • glad u found the post helpful! rest is very important so keep on enjoying it…i always tell myself that it’s the ‘reward’ for yesterday’s hard work. 🙂

  3. Confidence in my running is definitely the largest factor that I struggle with. I think it stems from being a very un-athletic child and not having faith in my physical fitness. The challenge comes in re-framing my self image and seeing that now I am someone who is physically fit and capable of running distances I never dreamed possible, and of racing if I so choose. So for me building confidence is remembering my running journey so far and the goals that I have set and achieved for myself in this area. Of course it is possible Amy!
    Patience unfortunately is not a virtue that I have nurtured a lot over my lifespan thus far, and at this point when I am trying to work myself up to running longer distances it is hard to be patient with myself and remember that I can do it, it just might take a little while. This is where a plan comes in mighty handy for me. If I can see that I plan to progress I am able to be a little nicer to myself and just get out there and go 🙂

    • i think u’re right on the money with a plan. BUT i want u to also have the patience with urself, and nurturing spirit, that if u have to adjust the plan along the way that is okay too. confidence is something i think most of us struggle with, but we gain along the way. surrounding urself by positive reinforcements of ur worth helps…go back and look at the reminders of ALL u’ve done (racing, writing, and in life!!) u’ve got so much worth and remember to pat urself on the back. cuz u got only more in store for u baby! 🙂

  4. Oh Ryan Hall. took the words right outta my mouth! you’re right, resting is the HARDEST part of being a runner. it’s harder than training, and I’m one of those people that learned it the hard way. I’m the girl that never wanted to take a rest day, never wanted to do my easy runs at a pace slower than 7:30 miles, never wanted to cut my mileage before a half marathon, never wanted to decrease my training volume AFTER the race to recover etc etc….but that’s really what makes the difference between an exerciser and an athlete. Being injured definitely taught me to listen to and trust my body. Actually, what this all really comes down to for me is trust. Trust my training plan. Trust my coach. Trust the process. Trust my hard work. Trust my rest. Trust my body. It’s reeeeeeaaally hard, cuz sometimes I just wanna go go go go GO! And it’s hard for me to trust that resting when I’m on the verge of injury is OK for my fitness, hard to trust that injuries will heal, hard to trust that rest is part of the recipe for success….but that’s what you gotta do. Trust that if Ryan Hall says it, it must be so. 😛

  5. I love this!! You hit the nail on the head with this. When I first started running, I actually snuck out after practice because I didn’t want to taper. I think it definitely affected how I raced, and I wish I never did that! I’m still not the best at slowing down and letting myself recover, but I think with experience and age it is definitely coming, along with the confidence!

    • haha…oh man u remind me of myself! (we can laugh at some of the stupid things we did…but at least we KNOW it was stupid!) the thing is tho, thru all the mistakes we’ve learned and sometimes u have to fail first to succeed later. u’re doing great and inspiring others to follow suit!

  6. Great post! Sounds like a lot of what my current coach has taught me and things I’ve learned the long way, but there are no shortcuts, not even to learning patience and confidence! 🙂

    • thanks!! and u’ve got one smart coach if i do say so myself. 🙂
      PS- okay, i’ve got an email on the way to u because i’ve got way too much to say 😛

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