Find Your Kick – 4 Tricks To Stay Focussed During An Ultra

Guest post from Jason Millward ( An accidental runner, writer and Hardmoors 110 course record holder.

We were watching the movie Inception the other day and if you haven’t seen it, without going into too much detail, the plotline involves Leonardo Decaprio and his team going into someone’s dream to plant an idea in their mind.

In order to get out of the dream it requires a ‘kick’ which jolts the person awake. This got me thinking about trying to find a trigger that might help you get motivated and moving again in a race when you have lost focus.

It’s that feeling of falling you get that jolts you awake. It snaps you out of a dream.

Ultra marathons are tough and although you encounter many highs along the journey there are times when it just hurts, you’re not having a good time and you just want to throw the towel in and quit. If you can find a way to stay focussed during an Ultra Marathon, it can be the difference between crossing the line or a DNF.

Finding the inner strength to keep pushing long after your brain tells you to stop is key to good performance. It’s been said that running an ultra marathon is anywhere from 50% to 80% mental rather than physical and I have to agree.

It’s happened to me in pretty much every race I’ve ran, most notably the Ben Nevis Ultra and the UTMB, where I’ve got myself into a bit of a hole and my performance has suffered and I didn’t have the race I planned. Having something you can use to snap you out of your dream should help improve performance.
So what can you do to find your kick and help you get to the finish line? Here are a few suggestions:

Put on your favourite music

It’s no secret that listening to your favourite music can lift your mood and running to music can help you maintain pace by running to the beat.

Whether it’s drum ‘n’ bass, house, 80s synth pop or Bavarian horn music that gets you going, when you are suffering and in need of a kick then there’s nothing better than some good music to get you going.

So find that track or playlist that lifts your mood and gives you a beat to run to and reserve it for times when you need that boost.

Listen to some motivational speeches

These worked a treat for me on the Hardmoors 110. I put them on at Saltburn and it helped me focus on the task at hand. They are cheesy as hell but the combination of motivational speakers talking about achieving your goals and stirring music really helps you to focus on the job at hand.

Here’s a couple that I used:

Develop a mantra

Mantras can help you stay focused, eliminate negative thoughts, and distract you from any minor pain or fatigue you might be feeling. Repeating them over and over to yourself can help you focus on your running.

Some popular mantras are:

“You were strong enough to get this far. You are strong enough to keep going.”
“The body achieves what the mind believes.”
“I don’t stop when I’m tired; I stop when I’m done.”
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says, ‘I’m possible’”
“Time to stop doubting and start believing.”

Focus on the now

This is something I’ve been trying out recently in training after listening to this TED Talk about endurance athletes using the power of now to improve performance.

It involves focusing on the now and blocking out any other thoughts. By counting your steps as you run all you are focusing on is the current moment and simply running. I guess in a way it’s very similar to a mantra but I have to say it does help you focus. Try it yourself next time you are running and see how far you can count.

So there you are a few ideas to help you find your kick which will hopefully help in your next race. Let us know in the comments below if you have any other suggestions.

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Jason Millward

An accidental runner but now embracing ultra and mountain running. The steeper and more technical the better! Read more about his ongoing running adventure on his blog - Traillife

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