Brittany finishes the 2019 Salomon Catamount Ultra 50K. Photo Credit: Ironwood Adventureworks.
Brittany finishes the 2019 Salomon Catamount Ultra 50K. Photos of past races are great tools for keeping you motivated in your training. Photo Credit: Ironwood Adventureworks.

The dawn of the virtual race. For many runners, virtual races have become the new norm - from living room 5k’s to backyard ultras. The running community has banded together creating hashtags like #RunningIsNotCanceled and events like the Aravaipa Strong Virtual Race, turning out over 2000 runners across 29 countries - numbers that rival even some of the most prestigious races. Most have small or no prizes or medals but for many a percentage of each entry goes to charity, like Ironwood Adventurework’s Shelter In Pace Virtual Marathon. So to think motivation is low sounds contradictory, but the truth is, many people are feeling like their hearts aren’t in it, or are feeling disorganized and stuck in their training. So what can you do?

You’ve heard it a million times; “I just think of this as mental training...” or “Running is 90% mental..”. Well to be honest, both are valid statements but no one really explains how exactly to use those statements as tools. A trick of the mind is sometimes all it takes to make that next training session something you’re excited about. So let’s go over 5 ways you can reframe your mindset to stay motivated AND build that ever so critical mental fortitude for use far beyond the virtual race. Because, after all, there is a light at the end of this Covid-19 tunnel and you want to be ready to hit the road running when the red tape is gone.

An example of how "The Prepper" might pack for a race. Photo Credit: Brittany Beland.

Mindset # 1: The Prepper

You know the type; The one with the 12L vest that always has extra snacks, sports the high end GPS watch, and always knows what type of cloud is overhead. Well, laugh as you may, but they might be onto something. In uncertain times, The Prepper thrives. So how can you think like a Prepper in your training? Be ready to go at all times. Whether your race is cancelled, or it’s looking like it will be, be ready to race on race day. No one knows if or when those races will be rescheduled or what the landscape will be when they do happen and no one knows what epic virtual race will be announced next week. So be ready. If you’re an ultra runner you’ve heard of the Laz (the race director) and the Barkley Marathons. These racers show up not knowing the start time of the race. Mind you, this is one of the most technical navigation challenges in the history of ultra racing and has no flags on the course. Runners must create their own maps from hints and riddles. At some point the night before the race, Laz will blow a conch signaling one hour before the race begins. They have to be ready, at a moment's notice.

Mindset # 2: The Engineer

The Engineer likes to find problems and solve them. Maybe they haven’t been able to break through their training plateau, they have a niggle they haven’t quite been able to solve, or they’ve been chasing the podium for far too long to not be on it. How does this translate to training when there’s no race to train for? It means tuning into your weaknesses and dedicating the extra time you have to solving those issues so you can come back stronger later. Increasing your running cadence, improving your form, or taking risks in your training to see if you can break through that wall - now is the time!

Mindset # 3: The Fun-Lover

Maybe you aren’t training but suddenly you feel like you need a goal. You run a 5k on Father’s day and every now and then to support a community event. But what if there’s no 5k to train for? What if virtual races just aren’t your thing? You can run for fun, you know. You can run just because you’re tired of sitting around. But what about that goal you need to stay on track? Try setting a goal to run a certain number of days per week, or miles per week and if you do it, have a party for yourself. Maybe you needed an excuse to wear something besides athleisure wear, throw yourself an awards ceremony and dress up. And hey, maybe the kids want to earn a party too.

Inspiration for
Who wouldn't take on "The Creator" mindset running down dirt roads like this? Photo Credit: Brittany Beland

Mindset # 4: The Creator

Have you ever wondered why many runners are artists or writers? It’s because running inherently inspires creativity. If recent events or life in general have left you uninspired, try going for a run. And if it works, try going for another. When we perform repetitive motions, like running, cleaning, or driving, our bodies start to move intuitively, freeing the mind, and making space for creativity to return. Sometimes creating that space is enough to unstick even the most brutal writer's block. Keep at it, and you’ll see what I mean.

Mindset # 5: The OverAchiever

Maybe you want to be the best possible human you can be. Is that so unreasonable? I think not. You’re driven, goal oriented, and constantly seeking improvement. You often need nothing more than to know you’ll be better than yesterday to get you to start a workout. So lean into that. You don’t need a race to stay motivated and you know that. Train smarter, train harder, and find out what your limits look like without the risk of sacrificing a PR finish. But remember even the grittiest of us can be beaten down. You’re human - you feel things too, and it’s okay to skip a beat. If you’re slower than normal, you’re not recovering as quickly, or if you're not feeling the high you usually get from a good workout, give yourself permission to breathe, to rest. And don’t beat yourself up, the world is doing enough of that for you. Be the best person you can be right now, and know, that is plenty good enough. Burnout is real, and being kind to yourself is one of the best ways of preventing it.You’ll lose more progress if you burn out than if you slow down.

Whether you’re a Prepper, an Engineer, a Fun-Lover, a Creator, or an OverAchiever there’s a way to keep your head in the game and stay motivated. So sign up for that virtual race, run circles around your living room, or up and down the stairs until you drop. Be in the moment but hope for the future. And whatever you do, keep your head up, because it makes it easier to breathe, and that’s the only way we’ll get through this together. Breathe in, breathe out.

- Brittany Beland, Skirack Web Department