Having the right mindset is key to running a good race

The main group of runners being flagged off at Orchard Road at the start of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016.
The main group of runners being flagged off at Orchard Road at the start of the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore 2016. PHOTO: ST FILE

The day you have been waiting for is finally here.

You may be excited, nervous or perhaps even regretful about your decision to sign up for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.

It is perfectly normal to feel this way on the day before the race - trust me, I have gone through these emotions myself.

I remember heading to the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar with intense trepidation, as my training schedule was disrupted in the final weeks leading up to the Games.

National Service called, and I was required to book into camp for my Medical Officer Cadet Course (MOCC) just two weeks prior to the Games.

I was not spared from anything during the MOCC and underwent a tough physical training regimen with the rest of the male medical officer cadets.

As medical officer cadets training to work with other medics on the battlefield, we also had to undergo an additional training component geared towards medical support, planning and logistics.

While learning how to evacuate (and drag) wounded soldiers off a battlefield and how to set up Battle Casualty Stations (essentially mobile hospitals) were engaging, they were also gruelling.

I was perpetually exhausted and sleep-deprived.

To make matters worse, I contracted the typical "Tekong cough" and suffered a strain in my right hip flexor as well.

In other words, the two weeks before I ran the biggest race of my life were far from perfect or ideal.

I booked out of camp on a Friday, two days before the race, boarded a three-hour flight to Myanmar and then took a four-hour bus ride to the race village.

You can imagine how I felt then - unprepared, fatigued and engulfed with self-doubt.

But I digress.

At this stage right now, if you are feeling the pre-race jitters, the key to your success then is to reframe your mind.

Sports champions have penned their stories about how they kept their eyes focused on the prize since they were 10 years old, or even younger, and eventually achieved their goals at 30.

It is always easier to write in retrospect with the benefit of hindsight, and make our achievements sound better, grander and more prestigious than they really are.

But there are also those other champions who are champions in their own right - they have won simply by virtue of their sheer hard work and process.

In Myanmar, I reframed my mentality and convinced myself that no matter how the race turned out, I would still be a winner.

Who in this field of competitors could have gone through what I had in order to be there on race day?

With this shift in mindset, I took the pressure off and managed to stay relaxed throughout the race.

This, perhaps, also led to the best performance of my life at a championship marathon.

Tomorrow's race will be like your own World Championships.

You may win on many different accounts - breaking your personal best time, completing your first marathon, or maybe even proposing to your fiancee at the finish line.

Whatever it may be, the key is to focus on your process.

Look at how far you have come in terms of your fitness, mental fortitude and determination.

What have you gone through in your life to get yourself to the start line?

You had to perform parental duties for your newborn and devote a substantial amount of time to your family, so you woke up at 5am to complete that long morning run religiously.

You had to run that company of yours tirelessly and endlessly - five days a week, 12 hours every day - but not before slogging it out every morning on the treadmill, rain or shine.

You had to sit through that long-drawn meeting which overran and finally ended at 10pm, but you still went ahead and got in that fartlek run.

If you are not a winner, who is?

I wish you all the best as you stand at the start line tomorrow, and may you taste the sweet success of your journey.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'Having the right mindset is key to running a good race'. Print Edition | Subscribe