Mental training for a marathon: Part 2 of 2

Posted by David Asp, Ed.D.
August 06, 2013

In part one of this training blog, I discussed the importance of the mind when training for and participating in a marathon. The main point being that no matter how strong or physically gifted an athlete might be, it’s important to have a positive frame of mind and be mentally prepared to enhance and be successful at their running event. 

The following are specific mental strategies that runners can implement to aid in an enjoyable and quality run: 

  1. Prior to your event, if you feel you need distractions, plan out positive daydreams or things you want to think about to help divert your attention.
  2. Divide the race into segments (i.e. mile markers, water stops, etc.) and use completion of each segment as a success.
  3. A week before the race, think of several reassuring thoughts or positive cue words to use during your event when you need them. Here are some examples:
    • I can do this, this is my opportunity
    • Full effort is full victory
    • I am meant to be here
    • I am tough/strong
    • Run strong
    • Run tall
    • Race discomfort is temporary
    • I’ll run my race and focus on the process of my running
  4. Visualize the race in advance and how good you want to feel. Imagine being relaxed with easy strides, light feet and efficient movements. Picture that image over and over.
  5. Imagine yourself maintaining a positive attitude if something unexpected happens. Plan on being able to adjust if this situation should occur. Remember there are no musts or shoulds. When things happen that we cannot control – weather, competition, recurring injury, course terrain – focus on things you can influence, like changing your stride, adjusting your pace, hitting your mile splits and relaxing your arms.
  6. See your run in a growth mindset. Focus on every experience, good or bad, as an opportunity to learn, improve and continue to strive for your full potential.
  7. A day before, as well as just prior to your event, remind yourself of your dream in attempting this run. Think about the training you have put forth in your efforts to reach this goal. Focus positively on the training you accomplished rather than the training you didn’t do.
  8. Embrace race discomfort. Allow any discomfort – unless you are in pain – to remind you that you are working with effort. Trust your body. Trust your training.
  9. Use other runners and spectators as motivation and energy. They are there to support you. You are part of a select group of people willing to physically and mentally challenge themselves. Remember, you are out on the course making the effort, pushing yourself, defying physical and mental barriers.
Read more: Mental training for a marathon: Part 1 of 2


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