Pat Carroll , former elite runner 

Pat Carroll, former elite runner 

How to mentally prepare for City2Sea

Tackling and conquering a 15km run is ideally a desire that comes from within. It comes from your heart and soul. It’s during your campaign and preparation that you bank thoughts as to how much you will apply yourself come race day. Visualize yourself running strong through various stages in your 15km challenge. You’ll be able to call on these thoughts (as well as remind yourself of a challenging training run) when the going gets tough.

Initial 5k

This is all about settling in to your goal pace and you can use a GPS Fitness Watch to do this. I use the TomTom Spark and place it into pace mode. You may find the initial few km’s a tad erratic however the closer you get to 5k the more you should be locked in to your goal pace. At this point you should also find yourself in a cluster of runners travelling at the same pace. Feed off the energy from the runners in your group. Reflect on all the accumulative km’s that have been banked by everyone in your pack.

1k – 5k

Ideally you’ll be chafing at the bit to pick up the pace given it’s early in the race however you need to be mindful that you don’t want to be on “all fours” at the 14k mark. Running a great run is very much about pace judgement – it’s about respecting the distance. You will only have so much petrol in the tank and ideally you’ll be running at an even pace throughout, perhaps just a tad faster in the first half. You could aim to pass half way 1-2 minutes faster than what your predicted finish time would be if you halved it.


This is all about setting yourself up for the business end – the final 10k. Each time you land imagine the constant beat of a drum. Your speed is locked into the beating drum and you are carried along at this pace in a trance. Relax your shoulders, keep your unclenched fists just below chest height and try your best to reduce excessive puffing. Running in a relaxed state, but at the same time remaining very much focused, can often deliver a great result. Simply saying the word “Relax” or a similar manta can work a treat.

10k – Finish

Your energy stores will be slowly depleting however remind yourself the end is drawing closer and the job is almost done. Monitor how your body is feeling and possibly adjust your stride slightly if muscles are starting to twinge. You will be gradually engulfed in an overall sense of fatigue, almost as if you could fall asleep. Not dissimilar to a massive dose of jet lag. Don’t reflect back on how far you’ve travelled, reflect on km’s that you have left to run; 4k to go, 3k to go and so on. You’ve run numerous training runs during your preparation so tell yourself that 4k (or less) is something you can easily master. Visualize crossing the finish line and seeing your goal time on the clock. Visualize meeting your family once you leave the recovery area.

You only have to stand at the finish line of a running event to witness runners only just making it across the line. A few steps later, the mind relaxes and a slow walk is all that can be managed. This is a clear indication runners have milked every last bit of energy out of their bodies. The mind is a powerful tool and will be a driving force in helping you achieve your goal.

Interval Training - Why it’s good for runners

If you’re taking part in a running event you will probably fall into one of three runner categories 1) Completing a distance running event for first time 2) Taking part for the experience and running at a pace which is not taxing or 3) Striving to achieve a personal best time.

For those striving to achieve a personal best time, not only do you have to train consistently in the lead up to race day, but you need to start alternating the types of sessions involved in your training. Continually training at the same pace will not make you a faster runner and this type of approach can eventually start to feel a tad monotonous. This is where interval training comes into play.

How to Interval Train

I’m a believer in the “Polarized Training Method”. Such a method will find you running at a relaxed pace for 80% of your training volume with the remaining 20% looked upon as if there’s no tomorrow.

Interval training is a period of time requiring complete focus. When testing yourself in training, visualise yourself achieving your goal on race day. When I was an elite athlete, a standard session would involve 10 x 1 minute efforts, with a 45-second jog recovery around an undulating course. The session would also involve a 20-minute warm-up and cool down. It would only take me an hour to complete this session but it was a true test as to how much I wanted to succeed. I ran every 1 minute effort close to my maximum potential, and would try to keep the recoveries moving along at a respectable pace. I would finish my 10th effort totally exhausted, knowing my last 15-20 minutes could not have been better spent in my quest to be the best I could be. On numerous occasions I would say to myself” OK, so how much do you really want this? Come on, another two efforts".

Tip: Create short term goals

Shorter races than your eventual goal race and/or performing solo time trials serve as great indicators as to how you’re progressing. If your results are positive they also instill confidence, which is a wave you can ride all the way to your event.


Ideally your preparation period will involve “months” rather than weeks. As much of a cliché as it sounds, the truth is if you're not ready to achieve your set goal 2-3 weeks out from an event, you never will be.

Your main objective throughout the closing weeks is to ensure your final preparation does not leave you fatigued. Having a tough final preparation/playing catch up will be of minimal benefit. You may improve your fitness level slightly but walking to the start line sore and tired “from cramming” is not a sensible trade-off. Tapering will allow your body an opportunity to repair and rejuvenate.

Gradually reducing the duration of your long run will be crucial. You will be decreasing total running volume by 10% each week over the final 3 weeks. Speed work can be maintained however overall duration of repetitions will become less and rest between repetitions will be increased, eg; 8 x 500m with a 1min SR rather than 5 x 1k with a 45sec SR. Slotting in an additional REST day each week is acceptable.

For a majority of runners, preparation is filled with determination to achieve a goal and confidence grows with each run. But others, once confronted with the event “head on”, may suffer from pre-race anxiety.

I could often feel myself start to crumble as an event drew closer. To combat this I eventually adopted, in the final week, a simplistic approach to races where I would not entertain any thoughts about what I was about to enter into. I imagined there was a gate in my mind which I would shut as soon as any thoughts about the race entered. I found that even if I entertained positive thoughts about what may happen, negative thoughts would manage to creep in.

Combining a physical taper and a plan to stay in control psychologically will allow you to fully tap into the months of banked training.

Tip: Don’t try anything new on race day. This applies to diet/apparel/shoes and anything else that someone may try to talk you into. If it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it!

Pat Carroll and the TomTom Team