The biggest challenge in a race is yourself

Summer Sanders shares tips for pace training as she prepares for the Disney Princess Half Marathon.

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.



Thinking about your training should put a smile on your face. As cliché as it sounds, you are worth all the time and energy you've put in. Unleash your emotions with a cheer, or even a signature roar, after a tough workout.

The people around you who love you most get it. Feel free to express your passion for running in your conversations with good friends and family after a particularly trying training day; it will help them understand how much this means to you. When you open up to them about how working this hard lifts your spirits and gives you confidence, they may want to feel those effects, too. Perhaps they'll join you for the next one?

Expressing something outwardly makes it feel more authentic. You are the real deal, so don't be afraid to say it -- act on it, and even sing it!

Right now, I'm all about thinking Disney and staying healthy for the race. Running through the parks in Orlando is something that passes through my mind often. It's my happy place. The Boston Marathon in April is in the back of my mind – it's something thrilling that's not too far away.

I've been traveling a lot lately, so the best way to connect with my normal life is to do some of my favorite things when I'm on the road, which include hitting the gym and Skyping with the kids. The adrenaline rush of a good workout always helps me. Keeping some kind of routine and calling home to hear the kids' voices grounds me. When my day takes a turn toward crazy, I know a little bit of home will bring me back.

There's nothing like that feeling of pride when my kids have done something new, especially when it involves conquering a fear. I know how hard that can be. My kids are so honest about how they feel, the good and the bad. I encourage them to share those emotions with me, and they speak up when I've done something that excites them.

Racing is one of those things we can all get into. It's probably part of our DNA, but it's also a lesson I've taught my kids by turning sporting events into family activities. If it's fun for them, they'll want to go do it again. That's a no-brainer.

By trying out different sports and watching my husband Erik and I do the same, Spider and Skye see how amazing it can feel to finish something that seemed daunting at first. They need to experience it (not just hear about it) for the feelings to set in. Then, just like adults, they associate a race or day on the slopes with that warm, fuzzy feeling.

It's not really about the competition. Your biggest challenge in a race is yourself. You're often racing again time. You're frequently running everything through your mind. You're always competing against preconceived ideas. It's not really the person next to you that you worry about.

If I can beat my last time, awesome. If I can finish the race feeling even better than I did the last time I ran the same distance, that's the ticket. It means I am taking steps in the right direction.

I have so much to learn when it comes to running. I just don't ever want it to feel like a chore. When I choose to sign up for a race or go out for a run, it's to make myself feel good, and I almost always do. I can always come back to that, and it seems to be just where I belong.

This week is Summer's opportunity to look back at all she has accomplished and think ahead to her race, which is just three weeks away. It's time to focus, home in on what works and set a race weekend plan. For Summer and Spider, that's making sure their Disney weekend is packed full of fun, family-focused events, such as the Pasta in the Park Party on Friday, to get them ready for their races.

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