Crisis Management in Long-Distance Races: Mental Training

Long-distance races, such as ultramarathons, ultratrail, or 24-hour circuit races, subject the body to extreme exertion, challenging not only physical endurance but also mental resilience. Managing these crises requires solid mental preparation alongside physical readiness. Believe me, you can’t imagine how many thoughts ran through my mind during the night of my first 24-hour race.

Importance of Energy Control

Effectively managing mental energy becomes crucial in handling these crises. The brain, the operational center for our actions, faces immense demands during these challenges, making its role as the overseer of our energy resources paramount.

Keeping the Mind Steady

In both preparation and during these races, mental training focuses on two fundamental resources: maintaining a steady mindset and eliminating background noise to improve focus. Push yourself during training by simulating mentally challenging experiences, like training for two hours in your local park, or start with the awareness that it will be a tough race, the crisis will come, but it will also pass. Here are my tips:

  • Dividing the Race into Intermediate Objectives: breaking the race into smaller milestones makes the endeavor more manageable, helping to focus on specific sections of the course and manage emotions more effectively (I break the 24 hours into 8-hour blocks, for example, or when reaching the 30K mark of a marathon, I remind myself there are only 12K left; it helps).
  • Mindful Breathing: integrating conscious breathing into mental preparation, practicing regular breathing exercises to maintain calm during stressful stages of the race and shift focus away from fatigue.
  • Positive Routine: creating a routine that generates positive emotions, encouraging optimistic feelings and thoughts during the race (think about your loved ones, the scenery, how finally you get to enjoy your free time).
  • Awareness: focusing on the senses helps stay in the present moment, blocking negative thoughts and maintaining focus on the race.
  • Positive Mantras: developing positive, energy-filled phrases that reflect the strength and determination required to overcome difficulties encountered during the race.

Effective crisis management requires a well-structured mental approach. Be aware that the crisis will come, but you will endure, you will keep going. Mental training prepares the mind to maintain concentration and face challenges, enabling you to succeed in long-distance races more effectively.