Have you ever stopped to think about where your focus (or lack of focus) is during a run? How about a race? Do you listen to music? A podcast? The birds? I know, of course, what I think about and why but, yet another revelation when reading The Runner’s Brainhad me thinking about where everyone else’s head is, and how we can learn from each other.

whereisyour focuswhenyou'rerunning?

As some of you know, I usually train with music or by listening to a great podcast, but I never race with music. Never. When I’m in a race I need to have total focus on what is happening with the crowd, other runners and my breathing. I prefer to have as little distraction as possible so I can focus on a singular goal – getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. It is in fact a race, right?

By racing without music I have:

– known what place I’m in as the crowd will scream something like “You’re the third woman! Go get her!” even if “her” is a minute ahead of me. I pick up my pace every time.

– get encouragement like “looking strong!” from the crowd and, as my elite pacer Tina once told me “take their energy, draw it in, they want to give it to you!” I now visualize the cheering crowds actually filling me with energy. It works.

– know if someone is right behind me as I’m going for the tape! In the infamous sword winning race, the top three women finished within 3 seconds of one another. As I rounded the corner to break the tape, a woman from the crowd almost whispered to me, “she’s right behind you.” That’s where she stayed.


Association and Disassociation

These are your choices. Basically you can tune into what you’re doing and feeling or you can completely tune out.

Would it surprise you to know that elites mostly choose to stay in their heads and think about exactly when things are happening and why and that beginning or mid and back of the pack runners chose to “disassociate” or think of anything but running while they’re running?

Classic disassociation. Or hallucination. Pick one.

Classic disassociation. Or hallucination. Pick one.

Of course I, probably like many of you, use a combination in training.

When I’m running with friends, we talk the entire time and the miles fly by, although they are usually my slowest miles. Those runs absolutely serve a purpose in my training and are by far my favorites. However, when I’m doing speed work on the track, I’m completely in a zone and totally focused on my foot falls, breathing, pace and form.

What camp are you in?

I'm usually all business in a race.

I’m all business in a race. I know for a fact in this photo, I’m staring down the finish line!


Music and Netflix

I know plenty of people that love to watch Netflix on the treadmill. I thought this was a brilliant idea when having to do longer miles on the ‘mill in the winter…until I tried it. I found that I couldn’t really focus on the show, it didn’t help the miles go by any faster and, after about 30 minutes I needed to hear some gangster rap or Taylor Swift…or both. I have the same issue with podcasts.

For whatever reason, I can only listen to podcasts when I’m running outside. My brain needs wide open spaces to process all the additional info I guess. Either that or I can only motivate myself with music when I’m stuck on the treadmill. Does anyone else have this issue?

Why do I only get 9 seconds? Damn you Netflix!

Why do I only get 9 seconds? Damn you Netflix!

As for reading on the treadmill or any other piece of cardio equipment, this is a phenomenon I truly do not understand. I suppose if you’re 80 and are there to just walk and are already hanging onto the bars for dear life then, what does it matter? But, if you’re reading an actual book or magazine and then complain you cannot lose weight or run faster or pretty much anything else related to fitness, the problem is you’re doing it wrong. Reading and cardio go together like Christmas shopping and happiness. It’s just not possible.


I love it when people tell me they want to run a race in a certain location because of the scenery. How many times has someone said they want to run Big Sur or San Francisco because “it’s so beautiful there!” (I also want to run there but I’ll admire the scenery when not racing)

I have news for you. When you’re hurting, as much as you’re likely to be in the hills of either of these locales, you will not care at all about the ‘scenery’ unless it involves a giant banner with the word “FINISH” on it!

Do you know what I wasn't thinking about during this brutal trail race? The scenery!

Do you know what I wasn’t thinking about during this brutal trail race? The scenery!

However, if you’re of the “dissociative” type then maybe you really will look around with each step and take in the beauty that is the left coast.

I also know that a lot of you race for something called “joy” and love to take your time and have fun with a race and the crowds. I love you people because I am not you, but you fully entertain me when you’re racing near me so I thank you.

Here are some simple difference we have when encountering these staples out on race course:

Kids with their hands out waiting for a high five

I think: OMG there is no way I’m running three steps out of my way and exerting the energy it would take to raise my hand to meet theirs. I do love that they’re out here and they remind me of my kids but I just can’t.

You think: OMG this is so much fun. These kids are great and I will make their day with this simple act of kindness.

Fine. I would go out of my way to give Meb a high-five.

Fine. I would go out of my way to give Meb a high-five.

Water Stations

I think: Please be able to hand me the water swiftly and efficiently and know whether you have water or Gatorade!

You think: I need to thank these amazing volunteers and I will slow down so I don’t spill any water on them.

Obviously you are a better person then I am but you knew that already. And, I’m not a total monster, if I can breathe adequately I do thank the volunteers…if they do a proper water hand off.

So tell me – do you listen to music, podcasts or nothing on your runs? Races?

Do you slap high fives during races?

How many hours of Netflix have you watched on a treadmill this year?