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Becoming Confident as a Runner (Running Coaches Corner)

Need help becoming confident as a runner? Stick around for my formula for developing confidence and staying confident throughout training as well as in social situations. Then link up for Running Coaches Corner!

Last day to enter the Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides giveaway! I AM OBSESSED. 

Confidence. Immediately takes me to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

How do you become confident? Julie Andrews Confidence Sound of Music

Becoming Confident as a Runner (Six Qualities)

Becoming confident in any area of life or skilled pursuit is tricky, but when so many recreational runners are mixed with serious amateur athletes and then elite athletes in races, on trails, in the gym, in the blogisphere…. Being in the company of so many runners who are better than you can be intimidating. So how do you tame your inner demons and head out there like a boss?

Becoming confident as a runner is about more than just being fast! The formula for developing confidence for running as well as life!

1) Running Confidence stems from doing Physical Homework

The most confident people are those who are assured of their competence. Becoming confident as a runner requires not only that you become physically competent. Physically competent does not mean that you are fast or that you run marathons without ever walking. In fact, some of the best and most consistent runners that I know personally run an 11:00 min/mile pace while running and have scheduled walking breaks. They are 100% still runners, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

What makes these runners physically competent? They do their homework. Runners and run-walkers alike must do their injury prevention exercises, they must do speed work (and yes, EVERYONE CAN DO SPEED WORK), they must do their easy runs… they do the work. Regardless of how fast your pace, anyone at any pace can be a confident runner as long as they do their work.

2) Confident Runners Set Themselves Up for Successful Running

That means doing the work on your runs, but also out of your running shoes. Being mindful of your eating and activity level the night and day before your big runs, wearing proper clothing, getting good sleep. They show up and come ready to run. They get new shoes, do their summer running prep, get help when needed, and rest when needed. They make smart decisions. Do they hit their goals each and every time? No, but they also realize the next point…

3) Confident Runners Know that Every Run is An Individual Step in a Long Race

By that, I mean that they know that you are going to take missteps and triumphs along the way, and that while each step is connected and come together to be a larger distance, each step is also slightly independent. You are going to have rough runs; you are going to have amazing runs. Some times, you will do everything right and still come up short and or hurt. But that is also just life. Greet each run knowing that you have done what you can, you have set yourself up for success, and then smart decisions. 

4) Confident Runners Realize that Fast is Relative and Effort is What Counts

Ok, the talk about being fast and confidence. “Fast” is different for each and every person. Just like beauty. I used to be a much faster runner than I am currently, but the pace that I currently run are still fast in the eyes of others. Some of the fastest runners I know are the most insecure with their running (and with themselves in general). With great power comes great responsibility, as it were.

Know that you are lapping everyone on the couch, as they say. You are getting out there. Be proud of the effort that you are putting in, and stop belittling what is a true accomplishment for you. I have to correct Alex all the time–just because I was running 50 miles/week at one point doesn’t make your Personal Distance Record (PDR) of 6 miles (which he hit on Monday WOOOOO!) any less awesome! Compete with yourself. 

5) Confident Runners Do Their Mental Homework Before Challenging Runs

This has two parts:

a) Mental Homework means learning about your sport.

Yes I take my work with me on vacation! But it isn't so much work, as pursing my passions poolside. |

Yes I take my work with me on vacation! But it isn’t so much work, as pursing my passions poolside.

Every runner benefits from learning about marathon training plans, learning common marathon training terms, and thinking about which pacing strategies are best for them. Be able to talk the talk. Not only will you feel like you can hold your own when talking shop with other runners, but you will also expand your applicable knowledge so that you improve your running!

b) Mental Homework means psychological preparation.

Have a run coming up that is making you shake in your Nike’s a little bit? Use psychology to set yourself up for success: during your prep, visualize yourself conquering each part of the run that worries you, finishing strong at the end of each repeat, and nailing that pace. Take yourself to a calm place mentally and then focus on the job at hand. 

6) Above all, Confident Runners Run Their Own Race

 If I could say anything about confident runners, it is that they run their race. Remember Desi Linden at the US Olympic Team Marathon Trials? Girlfriend ran her race, and no one else’s, and she nailed it. When I ran the Phoenix Marathon, I knew that other people would have their own strategies, and I focused on running my race, and I #nailed it. 

Need help becoming confident? Runner or not, follow these 6 steps #runchat #fitfluential Click To Tweet

If you can work on all of those areas, you can become confident as a runner (or in any other pursuit). Oh, and when you start to waver, remember the following (from my letter to first time full or half marathoners)

Words of empowerment; I am Capable. One of the best mantras around. @suzlyfe

And now it is time to link up with Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner! I am also linking up with Patty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and Ilka for Food and Fitness Sunday.

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Have you read these gems?


  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    I love the one about running your own race. I say that wisdom is true of many things in life!

    July 6, 2016 at 6:13 am
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Great, great advice. I think I gained confidence when I started hitting goals in my training, and ultimately when I hit that huge PR in my 2d Chicago marathon. Then I knew the sky was the limit. So to speak…

    July 6, 2016 at 6:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, they make planes, don’t they? πŸ˜€

      July 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    Awesome advice, as always Suz. I definitely feel more confident when I come up with a plan and stick to it!

    July 6, 2016 at 6:40 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      ANd being able to stick to the plan is awesome too!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm
  • Reply Alex Lemmer

    Great post babe, you have taught me the way! Now you need to teach me how to be a confident foam roller through the pain…

    July 6, 2016 at 7:01 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And you, who can bench 300 and go through 36 hours without sleeping… you can handle a foam roller, you wuss πŸ˜€

      July 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Such great tips! I love that you pointed out that any pace can be a confident runner. I think we get caught up in that sometimes, when that’s not what it’s ALL about.

    July 6, 2016 at 7:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Totally agree. Running is about way more than what pace you are going!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:14 pm
  • Reply Emily @ My Healthyish Life

    My two favorites: run your own race + everything is relative. YES. It’s hard in the blogging world to not compare yourself but running is individual (yet still a team sport in the camaraderie sense) and we all have so much to be proud of along the way.

    July 6, 2016 at 7:34 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And we also need to remember that fast is relative to ourselves during different times of our lives!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    Great post! I get tired of hearing the word “only.” I only do 5ks, I only run 10 minute miles. There’s nothing only about when you’re out there doing it (when most of the world is sitting on their butts!).

    July 6, 2016 at 7:50 am
    • Reply suzlyfe


      July 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply Bri

    Yes to these! I’d also add to not be afraid to not do your homework, make mistakes and learn from them. Sometimes the best way to learn is to do the things you’re not supposed to do! That’s how I learn and grow anyhow, haha.

    July 6, 2016 at 7:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So true. You ARE going to make mistakes. We all do!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply Ellie

    I find I am most confident for a race, or even a workout is if I know the route and feel prepared. I totally do the physical homework thing. I also mentally run the course and imagine myself getting over the tough parts. When I go into a race that way, I know I can finish!

    July 6, 2016 at 8:06 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And that is why you #nailedit in your last race!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    This is great advice! Every run is a small step in a longer plan. Patience is key!

    July 6, 2016 at 8:24 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      baby steps make a marathon!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Anna @Piper's Run

    Great tips!
    I’m definitely not a confident runner at the moment and my last half marathon was the downhill spiral. It’s like I just need a fire to be lit under me. Though I’m enjoying running and getting ready to start training for my next half…my confidence isn’t there. A big piece is mental prep – I was SO ready for my last half however, with life events (loss of our dog)…nothing could really prepare me for that race. However, I finished uninjured and thankful for that!

    July 6, 2016 at 9:03 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, mental preparation includes being emotional ready the day of. And immediately after losing your pup–no wonder you had a tough day.

      July 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm
  • Reply Sam @ See Sam Run

    This post is perfect, Suz! I have been working on so many of these lately. Being confident is so important and really does make running more enjoyable. It’s hard because it fluctuates. I felt so confident during Monday’s race but this morning I was doing an easy effort, got caught up in my pace, and felt like crap. We all learn from those runs, and I definitely realize now that I should have prepared myself mentally that today’s pace would actually feel like death. But hey, it’s better than not running at all!

    July 6, 2016 at 9:20 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Exactly! ANd guess what–you are more ready for next time!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm
  • Reply Lora @ Crazy Running Girl

    Love this!! I feel like the saying “fake it til you make it” holds true in so many cases — and in running, I’ve “faked” my confidence and proven myself right, which has helped me become a confident runner.

    July 6, 2016 at 9:29 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Confidence is so weird. Like, sometimes you just need to lie to yourself, lol

      July 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    I grew a lot of confidence when I did the speed and strength workouts from Hanson’s marathon training plan this past cycle. I had NO IDEA I could run that fast, but when I bit off one piece at a time, I kept hitting the paces and putting notches on my belt. And then that carried forward into the next workout, and the following week, and then the race.

    July 6, 2016 at 9:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t that the coolest feeling? And then to build upon that each time–you feel unstoppable!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm
  • Reply lacey@fairytalesandfitness

    I think knowing your capability is what makes you a stronger runner. We see so many runners and compare ourselves. Especially the ones much faster than us. We just need to run our own race and know what we can handle. Never want to cause injury to ourselves just to prove anything.

    July 6, 2016 at 10:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ain’t that the truth!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply Nicole @ Fitful Focus

    I love this, especially point #4. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap, but just because you don’t run a 4:30 mile doesn’t mean you aren’t fast. My fast is someone else’s slow, but I’m proud when I start to shave seconds off my own time.

    July 6, 2016 at 11:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Compete against yourself! Eyes on your own paper!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm
  • Reply Julie

    I loved the fact that you mentioned Sound of Music- all time favorite right there! I think my confidence has gone up and down over the years but I think I’ve gotten better at responding better to events that derail my confidence. Nice post!

    July 6, 2016 at 11:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Well, Julie Andrews knows everything, right? Confidence is going to ebb and flow, but maturity helps a lot!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm
  • Reply Abbey

    i always do the fake it till you make it thing!

    July 6, 2016 at 11:38 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, as long as you make it!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:06 pm
  • Reply Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday

    Yay yay yay, totally bookmarking this. I just did some serious physical homework to start getting me back in better running shape, and I’m very much looking forward to the whole process πŸ™‚

    July 6, 2016 at 11:46 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m so excited to hear about your analysis!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    This is really great advice. I will say that in some ways I am confident as a runner but in others, I definitely need work! I can’t wait to become a marathoner and learn how to walk the walk and talk the talk!

    July 6, 2016 at 11:46 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We all need work! And YAY for marathons! You will learn so much, and you will just transform!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply GiGi Eats

    I will just continually tell myself I look like a GRACEFUL GAZZELLLEEEE when I run! πŸ˜‰ That will boost my confidence! haha!

    July 6, 2016 at 1:13 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      But then you will likely be chased by a lion…. doh.

      July 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    Love the take away’s from this post, I think you can apply this to general health and fitness goals as well! Everyone just wants to be told what to do but doesn’t want to do the homework. Love this message and although I’m not a runner I got a lot from it!!

    July 6, 2016 at 1:13 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      YAAAAAAS That is what was meant to happen!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    Great reminders!!! Mental strength is vital to being a confident runner!

    July 6, 2016 at 1:22 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t it! That is why we do things like long runs!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    Fantastic advice, Susie! Matt Fitzgerald talked about how mentally tough runners are confident in their training – it keeps them from doing too much too soon and helps them believe in themselves come race day. Mental training is as important as physical training!

    July 6, 2016 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t it, though? And so often people discount it!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm
  • Reply Chrissa - Physical Kitchness

    Effort is what counts. Love that!! I haven’t done a race (EVER). It’s really intimidating for me, even though I am in shape and workout in a variety of other genres. Thanks for the inspiration and post!

    July 6, 2016 at 3:41 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      DOn’t be intimidated! There will be so many people there who you can find comfort, inspiration, and fun with!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm
  • Reply Melissa @ Mango About Town

    This was an awesome post! I’m working on becoming a more confident runner – of course it doesn’t happen overnight but I’m seeing progress!

    July 6, 2016 at 4:24 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is awesome! Keep working on it!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:02 pm
  • Reply Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    Love all of these ESPECIALLY running YOUR race, or training run. It’s so easy to get caught up with what others are doing.

    July 6, 2016 at 5:12 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      PREACH to that. In all areas of life!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    Preach, sister.

    July 6, 2016 at 6:57 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    This is seriously a great post…I think even veteran runners need to revisit these points and foster these qualities every so often! Thanks so much for sharing!

    July 6, 2016 at 7:28 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I definitely think that we need to work on it–keeps us confident, but humble as well!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm
  • Reply Farrah

    I love your #4. I’ve never been a fast runner (aside from maybe sprinting very short distances)–this gives me hope! :]!

    July 6, 2016 at 8:07 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You don’t have to be fast to be awesome!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm
  • Reply Alyssa

    These are some awesome tips Susie! Totally agree about doing your mental and physical homework for running and any other sport/ exercise! That is definitely very important and will help boost your confidence πŸ™‚

    July 6, 2016 at 8:15 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Cause then you know your stuff, right?

      July 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm
  • Reply Kathryn @ Dancing to Running

    Your last tip is key. Trying to run somebody else’s race often results in injury and/or disappointment.

    July 6, 2016 at 8:36 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So true. I ran someone else’s race and ended up happy but injured!

      July 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm
  • Reply Kristy from Southern In Law

    These are such great tips – especially running your own race!

    I only run for fun – and run rarely due to injuries but these are what every serious runner needs to remember!

    July 6, 2016 at 10:04 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, we all need to run our own race in life and running!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:59 pm
  • Reply Nicole

    I love this! I totally agree with all of it, especially about getting mentally prepared for tough workouts and knowing that not all runs are going to be great but they still have a purpose.

    July 6, 2016 at 10:06 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be a tough pill to swallow, but so important!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm
  • Reply Christina Bauer

    This is SO true! I was an inconfident runner for the first, oh, year of running (I’ve only been at it 18 mos now!). But I soon came to realize that I’m racing myself, my pace is my own, and a PR is just that – personal. And yeah, I AM lapping everyone on the couch. My favorite is running on crappy weather days, down a sidewalk of the busy streets during rush hour, and seeing everyone else look at me from the driver’s seats of their cars. Cuz I know that they’re thinking “Wow, I could never do that!”

    July 6, 2016 at 10:16 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You KNOW that is what they are thinking! Good for you for having those realizations!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm
  • Reply Ilka

    Love this post Susie.It’s amazing how much mental preparedness helps even in terms of running! Thanks for hosting the link-up! Have a great week!

    July 6, 2016 at 10:55 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you Ilka for linking up and hosting a link up of your own!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm
  • Reply Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

    LOVE this advice! It’s applicable to so many things beyond running too. You one one wise lady!

    July 7, 2016 at 12:35 am
  • Reply jill conyers

    This is awesome and on point. Lessons I wish I would have learned when I first started running.

    July 7, 2016 at 4:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you so much, Jill! I hope it helps someone!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:56 pm
  • Reply Alyssa

    Great post and very helpful advice. I think everyone can benefit from a bit of positive thoughts.

    July 7, 2016 at 7:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think so. We all are works in progress!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:52 pm
  • Reply Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales

    Oh I loved these! I’ve really struggled with confidence as a runner in the past – a big part of that being many of my friends who get me into running at Boston Qualifiers, ultra-marathoners, and very speedy runners! Running my first marathon this past May really helped boost my confidence and all these tips are such great reminders.

    July 7, 2016 at 10:02 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You have to run your own race–remember, everyone starts somewhere! You get to decide where you take it!

      July 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm
  • Reply Cassandra @ Powered By BLING

    These are great lessons. I’ve learned some of them the hard way over the last few years. I love the Sound of Music reference – my favorite movie of all time!!!

    July 8, 2016 at 7:03 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      #bestmovieever. Always listen to Julie Andrews, right?

      July 9, 2016 at 4:25 pm
  • Reply Meranda@Fairytalesandfitness

    I like this a lot Suz! I don’t think some people realize the “homework” involved in running and it is a lot more than what you see on the trail or on race day.

    What would be your suggestion on how to work on speedwork without running on a track? I am more concerned. With being consistent instead of speedy so I’ve never bothered with speedwork. I’ve been injury free for a while now so perhaps it’s time I try. Any suggestions on how to start? -M

    July 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm
  • Reply MCM Mama Runs

    Running my own race is one of the most important things I can do. If I do that, even if it’s not a great race, I come away feeling good about it. If I try to keep up with someone (or with the pack as I recently did at a small race), I end up both unhappy during the latter miles of the race and disappointed in myself after the race.

    July 19, 2016 at 9:29 pm
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