If you have 10k left of the run, imagine yourself at the beginning of a 10k course you’ve run a million times.

Transport yourself there.

In my first half Ironman my run was a real mess. I made all the rookie mistakes:

  • Pushed too hard on the bike with no consideration for the consequences it could have on the run
  • Went out way too fast in the first 5k
  • Never trained in the scorching, shade-less, relentless heat
  • Gave nutrition no thought whatsoever
  • And oh, yeah, never did any bricks in training

Furthermore, I had just run the Seoul Marathon a month before and thought my sub-4 time there was sufficient enough to achieve a respectable run in a 70.3.

Leading up to that marathon, I had done the heaviest running mileage in my life, and thought that would guarantee me a glorious run in my first half Ironman.

(insert sarcastic hubris note here)

I was overconfident and under-trained.

I couldn’t figure out why it all hurt so much

So in order to survive, I had to come up with mental tricks to salvage any bit of sanity or dignity I might have had left.

A big one was imagining familiar distances and sort of overlaying them on my current course.

For example, there was a 19k run I’d do on Tuesday and Thursday mornings often over the prior few months.

I did it so many times I had pretty much every curb, corner, and crack tattooed on my memory.

I knew exactly where each km mark was, so if I was at km 10 of my race, I’d think of the surroundings at the 10km point of my familiar 19km run at home.

On this unfamiliar course, doing this gave the course a sense of familiarity to me.

These mental pictures and references were more relatable and emotionally significant than any arbitrary distance marker.

“I have 11km to go,” is far less meaningful than, “I’m almost all the way out to Sembawang Park [insert your own landmark here].”

I had done that run so many times that this re-calibration suddenly made the remaining distance seem trivial.

Contrast this with the daunting thought of running 11 more km in the searing heat, around some endless course I’ve never been on that’s totally unfamiliar and even unwelcoming. Or intimidating.

This newly-framed situation – repositioning the foreign as familiar – made the run a tiny bit more doable. I have since done this in other equally painful runs and will continue to transport my senses away from the foreign and back to the familiar.


Related tips:

#18: Check the course before race day

#50: Visualize the race, especially the end

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