I have to beat him/her!

I’ve been coaching every level of runner for many years now. Something that I hear coming from runners at every level is the desire to “beat” someone. The nine-minute per mile 5K runner wants to beat someone who runs 8:30s. the five-minute per mile 5K runner wants to beat someone who is running 4:50s.

The question becomes not one of desire but one of conditioning and physical capabilities first and only secondarily one of tactics and finally it’s all wrapped in motivation, desire and mental toughness.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to want to beat someone and to be competitive. It keeps us moving forward and pursuing goals of running faster. But, merely wanting to beat someone is not enough. That is an ego thing working. So, let’s set the stage for how to beat that special someone in your life.

1. If your (you and your competition) race times are substantially disparate then you have to first narrow that gap. A positive thinking 5:00 miler will not beat a 4:45 miler. A motivated focused 21:00 5K runner will not beat a 20:00 5K runner. An inspired 1:45 half marathoner will not beat a 1:39 half marathoner. (…all things being equal – that is – the faster runners aren’t sick, jogging or injured).
So, get in condition first. Train appropriately for the distance you want to challenge your opponent. And train the way you want to race. Pick a specific race & date to shoot for that assures that you are physically prepared to match up well.

2. If your times are comparable then you need to assess both of your strengths and weaknesses. How can you take advantage of your competition? Are better on hills? Do you have a superior kick? Do they have a tendency of going out too fast and fading? Can you negative split (faster last half than first half) a race? Are you better on more grueling courses? If you do not know your competition you cannot take advantage of their weaknesses. If you do not know yourself you cannot take advantage of your strengths.

3. Learn and practice the tactics you plan on using during the race. If your goal is to follow then make a move late in the race then you need to become comfortable with drafting (not running/racing side-by-side). It does not come natural. If you intend using your speed in the latter stages of a race, you have to practice running hard at the end of runs – in practice! If your competition goes out fast and fades you may want to take a disciplined approach and hunt them down. To become the consummate pacer and you want to click off even splits – you have to practice even pacing – all the while knowing you are reeling in your competition.

4. Mental toughness is the final element. You must train your mind to be strong and execute your training and tactics. You can be in shape and have the best tactics to succeed, but if you have not trained to be mentally tough you will fall short. You must be able to push through fatigue and discomfort to succeed.

So, don’t just talk about beating that special someone. Get in shape. Make a plan. Practice your plan. Execute your plan.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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11 Responses to I have to beat him/her!

  1. Christina says:

    Interesting post. I can see how it would be very beneficial to know the competition and have a plan.

  2. Mark says:

    Love the plan, i think this will increase my times in a race instead of worrying about who to beat and who try to win over.

  3. Xiomara says:

    what if someone waits behind you and beats you at the very end how do you beat them next time?

    • Dean Hebert says:

      I actually love that question! Then, tactics come into play. If they have better finishing speed you have two choices:
      1. out condition them and beat them early… lose them… so that their kick cannot get you.
      2. train to develop your kick to beat them

      I know I have excellent speed for a distance runner; my rivals (and friends) have told me – they need to put a lot of distance between them and me because they KNEW I would catch them in the last mile if they didn’t (usually as much as 200 yards!!!!). So my response to their tactics can only be: stay with them no matter what to TRY to out kick them even though now I’m pretty wasted; or have confidence in my kick, let them go early knowing my kick will get them later.

      There are specific workouts you can do to optimize your chances of beating a “kicker”. If you need a coach to help you develop a training program to get you the advantage… drop me a line.

  4. Sophia121 says:

    Im training for a mile race (one mile to a 1.5 miles) in november. I HAVE TO WIN THIS. There are two laps on a grass field that make up the race. im leading till about 3/4 of the way through the first lap and then the competition revs up, passes me, and kicks it till the finish. I have been running 2-3 times a week about an hour everyday on the treadmill at 6.2 mph. What can i do to train and WIN THIS RACE. Any suggestions as to training?

    • Dean Hebert says:

      You need a comprehensive training program. Your current training will get you more of the same results I’m sorry to say. And it’s probably too late to make a big difference at this point. It’s not to be negative. But you are asking for results that may be doable over time with the right training. The right training however doesn’t get overnight results. Your dedication over months of training Will make the difference… Not a workout or two over a few weeks.

  5. Sophia says:

    i have been training for 3 months. my competition only has me beat by 5 secs. can u tell me a great training schedule to follow?

    • Dean Hebert says:

      I would like to help but your question is not as simple as you think. When I design programs I get a full history from my runners and then begin with a program design. A single workout or two isn’t a program. 5 seconds for 1.5 or 2 miles at your level is insignificant. If you are that close to your competition then the issue may simply be one of mental toughness. You need to practice pushing when you are tired – in PRACTICES! You cannot wait until race day to be “fast” or “tough”. One thing you can do is to do sprints as part of your workouts after you are tired to mimic running hard late in the race. Good luck.

  6. Sophia121 says:

    Oh and also, what can i do about the following symptoms when it comes to my mindset?
    Loss of emotional control
    Outbursts under stress
    Difficulty in coping with disappointment
    Dwelling on the past
    Obsessing about the future

    • Dean Hebert says:

      As a mental game coach I work with these things all the time. They are common issues with athletes. But there is not quick fix. If they are really interfering with your performance and detracting from your enjoyment of sports, you may need to talk to your parents about investing in a complete program with me to address this. But, I can tell you that all those symptoms are things that can be dealt with… and you are not alone in trying to overcome them.

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