Running Through the Hazard Zone: Preventing a mental crash in the dead center of your race

The hazard zone of any run, every hard workout, each race is the middle. The excitement and adrenaline has worn off from the first mile and you’re not quite close enough to the finish line to taste it. Here-in lies the dead zone…the dead center.

WARNING: You are now entering the hazard zone. Enter at your own risk. Proceed with caution and ample amounts of guts.

men running

We can break up each workout or race into three parts, to make things simple let’s take a 5k.

* Stage 1: The first mile you’re running on adrenaline. It’s easy to get caught up and go too fast actually, and here is where it’s important to, if anything, stick to your race plan or goal paces. Negative split running generally works best; if you feel like you can run below pace do it in the next stages.

* Stage 2 aka the Hazard Zone: Mile two is where fatigue sets in, the lactic acid has had a chance to build. Mentally it’s easy to let your mind wander or start to dwell on the fact that you’ve still got two miles to go.

* Stage 3: When you’re close enough to ‘taste’ the finish your mind can snap into focus and dig for an extra gear rather quickly. However, if you’ve dawdled away during Stage 2 and only reach this blast for home 400 meters from the finish you’ve lost time and if you cross the line with legs that were able to steamroll THAT much it’s most likely a sign you could have brought more to the race that day. Regret will set in moments after the finish line.

WARNING: The hazard zone is the biggest chunk of your race or workout. It takes up more than an equal third.

The thing is, taking this 5k example to a workout, say of 6×800 meters. The ‘novelty’ of Stage 1 could wear of after the first interval. Then it’s really only the very last interval that anyone can ‘gut’ through. So that leaves 4×800 meters of hazard zone.
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Your hazard zone runner care kit:

* Predict it: Know the hazard zone and be well aware it’s going to hit. Here is where before your workouts or races even happen you can use visualization to get yourself mentally prepared to handle it.

* Prepare for it: There is mental preparation that you need to do before and during the workout. Having others around you for your hard workouts can also help, as they can pull you along. Physically you can also set yourself up best to push through the hazard zone by ensuring your legs have enough in the tank. This includes properly warming up to get your body ready to run fast and then being mature enough to run within yourself for the early intervals. If you blitz out too fast in the beginning, physically you could sabotage your workout right there, dead zone or not.

* Battle it: When you’re in the hazard zone focus on the concretes rather than how tired you are. Do a form check, focus on your breathing, make sure that your shoulders are relaxed or your jaw isn’t clenched and if you’re running behind someone pinpoint a spot on their back and DO NOT let any distance develop between you and that spot.

* The pain: Here is where you need to play mental games with yourself. Use mantras, ‘I am fast. I am strong.’ Pretend you’ve only go this last interval (or 1/2 mile) to run regardless of what number you’re actually on. Remind yourself that if you give in and ease up now you WILL regret it when you’re done…even though that voice in your head is telling you that you really won’t care, that’s a lie.

Don’t let a crash in the hazard zone sabotage your workout or your race; sense it’s coming and run your butt off all the way through it. 😉
The feelings of being stuck in the hazard zone is also very similar to being stuck in No-Man’s Land during a race. You can check out that post HERE.

1) How much of your workouts or races, do you feel, is made up of the hazard zone? When your ‘almost finished’ alarm goes off and kicks back in, how close are you usually to the finish of the race/workout?

2) What’s been a time you feel victim to a crash in the hazard zone and your race/workout suffered?

3) When’s an instance you did an awesome job of pushing through and kicked the butt of the hazard zone? What’s one of the tips or tricks you have when doing so?

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18 thoughts on “Running Through the Hazard Zone: Preventing a mental crash in the dead center of your race

  1. Morning!! This is so helpful Cait! and something that I really needed. 🙂 I can’t believe how much running is a mental game! How fast we can talk ourselves out of things and just give up. I have so pretended that I only had just a few more tenths to go on my run and then kept running!! Lol! I love love love the idea of finding a spot on the back of another person and then not looking away. I wonder if I and when I run my first race I could actually put a dot on the back of someone as we are running!?? I could just see the conversation…”um, do you mind if I put this on the back of your shirt?? I promise it won’t weigh you down…” 🙂 🙂
    Have a great day!!

    • yay!! glad this helps…don’t worry, u can put as many imaginary spots on other races, i won’t tell, and if u won’t tell they’ll never have to know u’ve marked their back’s with bullseyes. 😉

  2. i was just talking about this with my running partner the other day as we were discussing our love for the half. seems like miles 8-12 are the dead zone miles where your mind begins to realize how far away the finish actually is. i think you’re spot on here, it’s the mind that gets you through these miles and not the legs. if only my mind wouldn’t try to turn on me all the time…

  3. Yes, this reminds me of how I treated the mile. The 3rd lap was most important. In fact, I told myself the event was only 3 laps, cause I didn’t have to run the 4rth, it took care of itself.

  4. Awesome tips :-). My worst part is usually at the beginning – that leads to burn out in stage 2. Make sense, or just weird? I can feel that I’m going to burn out long before I do. These days I slow down a bit, but I did used to have a great ‘go out hard, feeling great’ run or two which led to crash and burn after about 4km.

    Oh regret – the most powerful motivator.

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