Coach Greg’s Pre-Race Pep Talk


Before you read this section, I need you to be in a quiet space with no distractions. I need you to be in a calm mood with nothing pressing on your mind.

Okay. Ready?

Here is my super secret sauce: The performance you want is already inside you. That’s right. You can already achieve your goal. It is possible. You’ve proven it in training and even if you didn’t have the most ideal training leading in your race, you can still run very, very well. I’ve seen it over and over and over.

The key is to just get out of your own way. You are the one putting limits on yourself. Everyone else thinks you are amazing for doing this running thing anyway so why not you? Time to be more kind to yourself and become your own cheerleader in the last couple of weeks before the race.

It’s important to realize that you will be the one controlling the dialogue in your head throughout the race so let’s start scripting a positive result. Time to find your mantra to use when times get tough to remind you that you are more than tough enough to handle the challenge. Mine is always, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me!” When I say this, I simply put my head down and get the job done realizing no one else is going to do it for me.

Will you get tired? You bet! Your legs will ache. Your mind will get fuzzy and you’ll just want the thing to be over. But, you must fight. You must keep going just like you did in training runs. Just get to the next mile marker and then the next and so on. I guarantee you that if you can just keeping going the finish line will surrender. It will acknowledge your bravery and toughness and appear before your eyes. And, the more you can be engaged while in the latter miles of the race, the sooner the finish will come.

As soon as you start having a pity party (and I’ve had my fair share), you will lose time. My advice is to accept that you are hurting; know that everyone else is hurting too and stop whining about it. I know. That seems harsh but you’re gonna have to dig deep late in the race and if you’ve learned nothing else through this training thing it is that you can dig deep, that there is a strength in you that you never knew existed. Remember that run you gutted out and learned something about yourself. That toughness is still in you and probably even to a greater extent than before.

As fatigue sets in, dig deep. You have it in you and the more determined you are in the last part of the race, the better your finish time will be and the more proud you will be of yourself – not just at the finish line but for weeks to come.

Imagine looking back at the race you are about to run and saying, “Wow! I really did a great job. I’m so proud of myself.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, then let’s commit right here right now that no matter what happens in the race, the weather stinks, you get a blister or you feel like a million bucks, you are going to give the absolute best that you have to offer through every part of the race (read more about Go Zone Racing); the beginning (holding back and running smart), the middle (dialing in goal pace and staying engaged) and especially the end (where you’ll call upon your superman/superwoman powers). Agreed? Good. Let’s (virtually) shake on it.

Here’s my Race Guide video and a post on how to avoid 4 common mistakes before your race.

And after the race, be sure to try my Run Team (there’s a free trial) to load my Recovery Program – my scientifically-based, proven training plan that helps you optimally recover from a marathon, half-marathon or other big race yet maintain your base fitness so you aren’t starting over.

Check out Greg McMillan’s Surviving the Marathon Freak Out: A Guide to Running Your Best Marathon

Written By Greg McMillan
Called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Runner’s World’s Amby Burfoot, Greg McMillan is renowned for his ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. While getting his graduate degree in Exercise Science he created the ever-popular McMillan Running Calculator – called “The Best Running Calculator” by Outside Magazine. A National Champion runner himself, Greg coaches runners from beginners to Boston Qualifiers (15,000+ and counting!) to Olympians.

Read Greg’s Bio




“I got my first Boston Qualifier today with a 21 personal record!”

– Ramona M.