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It's all in my head

Posted by Matt Pepin, BostonGlobe.com Staff  March 20, 2013 07:00 AM

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100chrissyhoran.jpg Chrissy Horan is one of six Boston Marathon entrants testing Polar personal training gear and blogging about it for Boston.com
As I mentioned in my first post, this year’s Boston Marathon has a different focus for me. It’s about raising money and having fun, and as a result, I have approached my training with that same mindset. And for the first time, last weekend I approached racing with that mindset … and what a great day!

Last Sunday I raced the New Bedford Half Marathon. This race was part of my Boston training in several ways, but most importantly: 1) I wanted to push my physical training with a harder-than-normal effort and 2) I wanted to improve my mental game by practicing how I would deal with the ups and downs that are certain to occur over a course of many miles.

I’m an over-thinker. While I like to call it “thoughtful,” others can sometimes view it as slightly neurotic. My mom lovingly compares me to the Shel Silverstein poem, Whatif. My own version goes something like this:

Whatif my shoelace comes undone?
Whatif my stomach gets upset while I run?
Whatif I can’t hold my goal pace?
Whatif I completely blow this race?

Getting both nervous and excited for big races, I have struggled in the past with “pre-race jitters,” sometimes letting the “Whatifs” get the better of me.

I arrived at the race with my neighbor and early morning running partner, Laura. We usually don’t get to see each other much during the daylight, often starting and finishing our weekday runs before sunrise, so this was a treat! I credit Laura, and my boyfriend Brian, who also doubled as our chauffeur and photographer, for keeping me from getting nervous and thinking too much about the race before getting to the starting line. I may have to find a way to take them to Hopkinton with me next month.

Based on my training and a mild cold I am still fighting, my expectations for the race were modest. I ran my half-marathon PR in New Bedford in 2011, but knew I was not prepared to set a new personal best this year. I set my goal pace based on my last few 9-10 mile tempo runs; perhaps a little conservative, but I thought a fair estimate of what I was capable of running.

For the first race in over a year, my performance exceeded my expectations. I felt great. I started a little faster than I had planned, but after slowing down a little after the first mile, settled into a pace that was comfortable, yet still faster than I had planned.

With the physical under control for the moment, I did a head check. I’ve learned the key for me to successfully keep my mind in a race or any tough training run is to only think about the mile I am running.

“Stay in this mile” is my mantra. After each mile marker I checked my watch and calculated the time I wanted to hit the next mile marker. (Tip: This is also how I check to see if my blood sugar is getting too low. If I can’t do the math, I am overdue for some Gu Chomps.) After mile 6, my fastest mile, I caught myself dreaming about a surprise PR. “Stay in this mile”, I repeated to myself. And when I slowed down running uphill into a head wind, I reminded myself “Stay in this mile”.

Again, my Polar RC3 GPS came in handy. I am definitely becoming a heart rate monitor fan. I checked in several times during the race to see what my heart rate was to determine if I had room to push a little harder or if I should maintain my current pace. I wanted this run to be a hard effort, but not flat out kill me. I’d say I managed that pretty well.


At the end of the day, I didn’t run a PR, but I did run 14 seconds per mile better than I had expected and tied my third best half marathon time. If, in addition to the mental and physical components, part of this training race was to practice smiling after I crossed the finish line, I’d say I’m getting in good shape for April 15th!


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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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