Maranoia - understand and beat your biggest race day enemy
Maranoia: the irrational fear of not having prepared enough for your impending marathon or endurance event
This terrible affliction hits athletes of all levels whether seasoned pros or first-timers, and the impacts can be huge. Typically, an attack of maranoia is most likely to strike 2-3 weeks before the event in question.
Morning coffee looking like this with a big race looming? That'll be the maranoia kicking in
When wondering if you, or a close friend, are suffering from this debilitating condition, remember our handy acronym: S.C.A.R.Y
- Sudden dread that you are miles behind everyone else in your training
- Cold sweats, chills and the certainty you're coming down with something
- Absolutely every niggle is now definitely a race-ending injury
- Reassurance is futile - no one can talk you out of this psychological nosedive
- Your plan, the one you've perfected over months of hard research, is now clearly only fit for the bin
For those of you who's next race is so far away maranoia has yet to reach you, this may all sound like so much gibberish. After all, why would any sensible person who's been training well - particularly for an endurance event requiring mental fortitude - suddenly fall apart from the brain down in such sudden and spectacular fashion.
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But maranoia is absolutely a real thing
Very real indeed. Here's one of my favourite examples, witnessed when I ran the Marathon des Sables (MDS) years ago.
This is an all-time classic maranoia pressure cooker, because on arrival in Morocco before the race 700-plus MDS runners are thrown together for 24 hours in a hotel before being bussed into the Sahara for the race start.
For almost all, this is the first time they have run the MDS, and also the first time they have been around other MDS runners in significant numbers. No one really knows what's coming.
Add ego, fear, uncertainty and a desperate desire for reassurance in face of the unknown to this already tense and fragile environment and you have a recipe for disaster.
Maranoia: anything but rational
When maranoia strikes, fear and uncertainty combine with an unfamiliar environment (in this case a new and challenging race) and sensible people do stupid things.
Because when faced with the unknown, we look to other people for our cues on how to behave.
In evolutionary terms, this behaviour makes a lot of sense and lets us adapt to new environments quickly without having to go through all of the hard learning yards. Unfortunately, in impending race day situations it can be a disaster.
How bad? Well...
In the aforementioned MDS pressure cooker situation, one poor chap was suddenly convinced by some other runners he met of the need for a warm up run the day before the race.
To be clear: this was a warm up run, before 156 miles of running across the Sahara Desert, one of the hottest places on earth. Maranoia is anything but rational.
A pre-race warmup run was not something this chap had ever done for any race before, and unfortunately for him he tripped and broke his ankle, ending his MDS adventure before it had started.
Maranoia - could even could cost you a nipple
Chest next? Definitely not on race day
Yes, you read that right. A nipple.
Amid the pre-MDS maranoia, another unfortunate sufferer was sharing a room with a runner who had shaved his chest.
"Why have you done that", asks our maranoia man.
"It's so my pack doesn't chafe when I run", replies his shaven-chested companion (all MDS runners must carry all of their supplies for the race throughout so running with a pack is compulsory).
A lightbulb goes off in our maranoia sufferer's head and he rushes to the bathroom to shave his chest. For the first time in his life. Severing half a nipple in the process.
Beat maranoia: Stick to your plan
Whatever training plan and race plan you have in the final weeks before a race is the best possible one you can have. This isn't to say there aren't better ones out there, and nor is it a guarantee that yours will work, but no other plan has a cat in hell's chance of working better than the one you already have.
So when maranoia bites (it's guaranteed), know this:
- The plan you have is the best one
- Everyone else will likely have a different plan - this does not mean yours is suddenly terrible overnight
- Changing it will only end in tears - changes made in these final weeks have only two likely outcomes: injury, or illness, neither of which will help you reach your goals
When maranoia strikes, be strong
Stick to your plan, execute on that and then take the lessons learned, both positive and negative, to formulate a new plan for your next race. Rinse and repeat this process and the speed of your progress from one race to the next will be exponential.
Giving in to the maranoia at any point is basically like hopping on a snake in snakes and ladders. It sends you back four steps and you just have to start again.
Nutritional maranoia - beat it every time
This is a thing too. Give yours a firm poke in the eye with the confidence that can only come from knowing your nutritional strategy is bombproof. Use 33Shake Pre and Post Workout Shakes to support your hardest efforts and races, and 33Shake Chia Energy Gels for your on-the-go fueling. Take that maranoia!
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