Running a race is different from regular training where you can casually think of anything from work, to future goals or the scenery around you. In a road race, I completely focus on competitors in front and back, the best part of the road or trail to run on (like inside on a corner), wind, maintaining my pace, how much distance and time is left, when to speed up, when to pass someone, how well I still feel and more.

Each race requires a strategy. For example, you might wait (and watch for) the best opportunity to pass someone (like speeding up when going around a corner), focus on the back of a competitor in front to stay with someone who might be faster (which can significantly improve your time), or start the race faster if conditions make it hard to pass runners later.

Many famous runners have said they completely focus on the race with no distractions. Being able to do this (which can be very difficult) might also be what makes them so successful. They block out everything else, including personal problems, emotional events, crowds and sounds. Whether you're just trying to complete your first race, or trying to win, I think it's necessary to focus on the current race as much as possible.