I remember when I ran my first 5k race like it was yesterday. I was a senior in college and it was a Valentine’s Day run. Having recently broken up with my college boyfriend, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I decided to turn over a new leaf and give running a try. Although my finish time was a respectable 29 minutes, I had zero confidence as a new runner.
Slowly but surely, I signed up and completed more and more races which ranged from 5k’s to half-marathons to sprint and olympic triathlons. As my confidence grew, I pushed myself harder and completed longer and more challenging races.
In 2013, I ran my first marathon, and this past September, I completed my first half-Ironman triathlon— two races that I always thought were unattainable and impossible for a self- appointed “slow” runner like me. However, mile by mile, run by run, race by race, my confidence has improved and I love pushing myself to train for a new and challenging race.
If you are a new runner who is struggling to build your confidence and improve your mental toughness, here are five things that have helped me go from 5k to marathon; from a mentality that says, “I’ll never be able to run that distance” , to thinking, “Crossing this finish line feels amazing! I knew I could do it”.
Priscilla Welch, a British Army Officer turned Olympic Marathoner said, “If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.”
Have you heard of “someday syndrome”? You may want to start running, but you keep telling yourself that you’ll start someday. But someday never comes. So, if you want to become a runner, start running. And if you want to improve your confidence in running, keep working at it. You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you try!
Find Confidence in Consistency
As runners, we love data. We have iPhone apps and GPS watches that tell us our pace, our mileage and almost any other statistic that we could want. These can be great tools that help us improve in our running, but sometimes, the data is just plain discouraging, especially when you’re starting out as a new runner.
Instead of using your pace as a measure of how well you’re doing, use your consistency to boost your confidence. Make a goal to go for a run “x” amount of times each week and then when you complete your runs, you’ll get an instant confidence boost regardless of whether it was a “good” or “bad” run.
As a beginner runner, it can be easy to doubt yourself and get discouraged at how slow your progress may be. It is natural to focus on what isn’t working or on what went wrong or on what hurts, but appreciation can really help you go the distance.
Focusing on being grateful or on what is working can help improve your mental toughness which can help you become a more confident runner. Instead of feeling discouraged about a “bad” run, try to come up with a few things that went well. For example: “I’m really glad I’m healthy and able to get out here and run”, or “I felt really energetic when I charged up that hill”, or “these tough runs are making me stronger and more confident”.
While it’s important to give yourself some grace when you’re a beginner runner, it’s equally important for you to push yourself. Don’t take any shortcuts, pick up your pace, seek out the hills and do some speed workouts. All these things may not be comfortable, but come race day when a huge hill is ahead, you’ll have confidence and energy to charge up it because you pushed yourself in your training.
Big changes are made by a series of small changes that are strung together. In other words, if you lace up your sneakers and run consistently, focus on being grateful and really push yourself, then your confidence as a new runner will skyrocket. These small things really add up to make a big difference! So get out there and run your heart out!