How to Race - Mental Training

Train the mind, you say? Read on.

I began my first season of race walking during winter track of my senior year of high school. I was completely ignorant about training philosophy, race walking technique, and race strategy. Yet I was successful. How? Aside from working extremely hard and maintaining a desire to walk fast, I chased my teammate in every race. “Stay with John,” echoed in my mind. The mantra kept me focused on walking fast and using the techniques that made me fast.

By the end of the season, we reached the high-school national championships, an event for which I was totally unprepared. Only a year before, I was a complete non-athlete, opting to devote my time to computers rather than athletics. Lucky for us, the officials at nationals miscounted everyone’s laps after the very first one. But I never knew. I just stared into John’s back, while he was probably thinking, “Sh*t, Jeff’s still with me.” This interplay focused us on each other and not the officials. I can’t tell you when we realized something was amiss, but at one point our coach yelled to us, “forty yards.” We were leading the high school nationals by forty yards! Why? By allowing the lap count to distract them, everyone else choked. Instead, we stayed focused, finishing first and second by more than seventeen seconds.

In the case of that race, fear of my coach chastising me for not focusing ahead of me provided the catalyst for centering my attention. However, it is possible to achieve the same effect by training the mind along with our muscles. Training the mind involves multiple steps. By setting small obtainable goals and then succeeding at them, you can train the mind to be confident you will achieve your main goal.

Start by creating a list of positive mini-goals that seem attainable en route to accomplishing your primary goal. These steps start with your training, lead up to and include your race, and culminate with you reaching your goal.

A typical list may look as follows:

  • Walk as far as the race distance.
  • Walk further than the race distance.
  • Complete an interval workout at—or faster than—race pace.
  • Walk half the race distance in another race or workout at—or faster than—race pace, and feel good about it.
  • Get to the race with plenty of time to prepare.
  • Start the race on pace and feeling comfortable.
  • Hit the splits along the way.
  • Cross the finish line under goal race pace.
As you accomplish each goal, check it off the list. The pattern of succeeding with your smaller goals trains your mind to believe the final goal is achievable.


The goals I present here are very broad in nature.  When you create your list, include many more specific goals.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

Introduction Mental Training Race Prepartion Race Day Acclimatization Racing Indoors