Mental hurdle You start off your training program with boundless energy, but within a few weeks just lacing up your shoes feels like a chore.
Clear it Throwing all your energy into the beginning of a training plan is like starting a race at a full sprint. You're not going to have enough juice to finish strongly – or finish at all. "Initial excitement is good," says Robert Udewitz, a sports psychologist and runner, "but you need to harness those feelings and divide them up throughout your training." If you're on a 16-week marathon plan, for instance, four months is a long time to wait for a finish-line reward. Schedule a half-marathon halfway through your training to help you stay focused and motivated. Also, there's no shame in self-bribery. Promise yourself a massage after your long run.
Mental hurdle You feel so stressed out with performance anxiety that you aren't able to relax and enjoy the race experience.
Clear it "Runners who feel this way are usually caught up in time goals," says Kate Hays, a sports psychologist. "Don't lose sight of all the other reasons you run – health, sense of accomplishment, connection to others." To ease race-day pressure, Hays recommends setting three levels of goals: your ideal scenario, results that would make you happy, and an outcome that you could live with. Keep your ideal to yourself, so you don't face additional pressure from well-meaning family and friends.
Mental hurdle You struggle to balance running, work and family.
Clear it You might have been able to devote 15 hours a week to running – when you didn't have three children and a senior management position. Setting goals that don't reflect your current lifestyle, says Hays, sets you up for disappointment. There's no need to give up running, but switching to a three-day-a-week marathon-training plan (such as the one on page 56), or temporarily focusing on shorter-distance races, could make you feel more successful in all areas of your life. Also, consider ways in which running can bring you closer to your family. "Some runners isolate themselves and push others away when they are training," says Udewitz. "Make your training more of a team effort by involving your family." Ask your spouse to ride alongside you during a long run, or your kids to make you signs for race day, and then treat them to dinner at their favourite restaurant or a film of their choice.
Mental hurdle You're locked into a training plan, no matter what.
Clear it Runners are notoriously inflexible – and not just in their hamstrings. "Part of the appeal of running is that it's an element of our lives we can control," says Hays. "If other areas of our lives are chaotic, a regimented routine can be comforting." This is fine, but many runners obey their plans over their bodies, putting them at risk of injury. Hays recommends visualising a more flexible schedule. Imagine what it would be like skipping a run to rest an achy muscle. Picture yourself running stronger the next day. Or create an internal coach. Runners tend to be harder on themselves than a coach would be. A coach doesn't push you when your body needs a break or recommend unrealistic goals. "If you were coaching another runner, what would you advise him or her?" says Udewitz.