How Can I Boost My Confidence About Running?

Runner smiling
Matthew Leete

"I started running a couple of months ago and I'm getting ready for my first 5K. How do I get over those feelings that I won't be able to complete the race?"

Most runners, especially beginners, will have moments when they doubt themselves. It often happens after a particularly bad run, or during a period when an life gets in the way of your training. Here are some ways to deal with those feelings, boost your confidence, and run to your potential:

1. Recognize some self-doubt is normal.

Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the New York City marathon, once said, "I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we're all cowards." So, yes, even elite runners struggle with these feelings of anxiety before races.

A healthy amount of fear can actually be beneficial because it helps you stay motivated to continue with your training and run a smart race. Get a little too over-confident and you might slack off a little in your training or start out way too fast in your race. So try to embrace those mild feelings of nervousness as a part of the process, but don't let them get so out of control tha they're debilitating.

2. Try self-talk.

Positive thinking is very powerful. When you start thinking negative thoughts, give yourself a little pep talk. You don't have to be that crazy person talking out loud to herself on the treadmill.

Just develop some positive thoughts or a mantra that you run through your head. Remind yourself how hard you've been training, that you're strong, you're fit, and prepared to run to your potential. After some repetition, your positive attitude will become more automatic and you'll really start to believe it.

3. Talk to others, too. 

Fellow runners are a great source of positive encouragement. All runners were beginners at one point and they can totally empathize with that feeling of not being confident that they'll finish or reach their desired goal. Talking to another runner about your fears will make you realize that those feelings are normal, but also help you believe that your goal is completely achievable. Other runners can also share training and race tips with you, to help you feel more ready for your race.

4. Go easy on yourself.

Try to relax and not put so much pressure on yourself. Don't tell yourself you absolutely have to run the entire distance of the race. Many runners take walk breaks during races -- it's not considered cheating and, in fact, can be a very helpful racing strategy. Look back on your training and be proud of the time and effort you've put into it. Don't listen to any negative people who may be trying to discourage your running habit.

5. Be prepared.

You might be worried about things you can't control, like the weather on race day.

Take charge of the things that you can control. Figure out your race outfit, get familiar with the course, practice eating before your runs, and hydrating on the run. Having those factors under control will make you feel better about some of the unknowns and increase your confidence that you can handle anything that comes your way.

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