Mental Preparation and St. George Marathon Goals 2016

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“The only thing that replaces fear is faith.”-Rich Roll

I was listening to Rich Roll’s book, Finding Ultra, it’s one of those titles I like to play on repeat especially when I’m gearing up for a race.  As I listened, this was one of the quotes that really struck me. There are always a lot of fears going into a marathon and most of them we can’t control or change.

Here are a few of mine:

It will be hot.

I will be sick.

It will be an off day.

I won’t be brave.

I won’t sub three on the St. George course.

I won’t PR.

I’ll disappoint myself.

Whew, okay.  It actually feels so good to air those all out, writing truly is a cathartic act.

So the flip side…faith.

Believe in your training: All those tempo runs, long runs, and speed workouts.  Remind yourself, you did the hard work.

Trust the process: The first 6-8 miles never click for me, they feel uncomfortable as I settle in, but I know I’ll get into a groove.

Know that the people who love you, family and friends, are sending good energy and prayers your way: I can actually feel that good energy coming my way leading up to and during a race.  Take the pressure off yourself and let the people who love you most do the worrying for you.

Commit to the hurt, the hard, the work, and the sweat: There will be race panics I’ll have to talk myself through.  There will be sections of the race that will leave me wondering if I can get through it.  Just breathe and commit over and over again that you are capable.

Have confidence in your experience: Remind yourself, I’ve done this before, I can do it again.  If it’s your first marathon then just focus on getting through it, I love to look around and see other runners, you’re not alone.

Feel the love of the run: I like to remind myself that I am so grateful to get to do this, to have the health and strength that affords me this joy.

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My coach shared some really great advice heading into the marathon, and it has to do with self talk, a critical component in dealing with the stress of a race. The first thing to do is to recognize your own self-talk.  Think about what kind of inner dialogue you have with yourself during a race.  Positive self-talk has been proven to improve your race by helping you control your concentration and focus while negative self-talk will only work against you by draining your energy reserves.  My sister calls negative self-talk “TNT” (toxic negative thoughts) and they cannot only blow up a race, but your happiness too.

In the beginning of a long race, you need self-talk to help you monitor your pace and help you conserve energy.  I’ve found that phrases like: nice and easy, slow and steady, or let them go out hard, I’ll catch up later  help me feel calm, relaxed, and in control the first few miles.

By the middle of the race, when you’re facing energy slumps and sometimes concentration issues, the self-talk should sound like this hold strong, or keep up the pace.  It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed if you’re thinking about how much farther you still have to go.  Try to avoid things like I’m only halfway, or I have to run this distance again?” Instead focus on your running form, think about getting yourself to the next water stop, or take in all the spectators out cheering for you.

Late in the race is when self-talk is critical.  Your body, because of energy depletion, will be signaling you that it wants to stop.  Self-talk can help you stay with a competitor or even begin to push.  Phrases like, just stay with him/her, get to the finish, or I live in this mile have helped me when it’s time to go hard.

Interestingly, disassociation and association tactics work well for different parts of the marathon because it’s an “energy management event.” Meaning you have to conserve energy in the beginning to be able to have energy in the end.  Early in a race, disassociation tactics are beneficial, thinking about things that will help take your mind off what you’re doing. For example taking in the scenery, planning what you’ll do when you’re home (or in my case what I’ll eat when this is over), and trying to relax as much as possible.  However, by the end of the race you need to be employing an association tactic.   Your concentration must narrowly focus to the simple task of holding your pace even though it hurts. “Just run” is often a phrase I repeat for the last three miles, because at that point it’s all my mind can focus on.

Concentration can be practiced.  Usually for long runs, my friends and I will chat the first few miles (disassociation) and then when it’s time to get down to work whether that’s a few tempo miles or some speed work, the headphones go in, the music gets turned up, and we’re focused on the run (association).  Doing some pre-race planning with imagery and visualization on how your concentration will feel can help turn a race day into a PR day.

Now to the race at hand, based on my training and how I’ve performed on the St. George marathon course previously (it’s never been my strongest race) my coach is hoping that I run around a 3 hour marathon. However, I’m hoping that the stars will all align and I’ll be able to see a two something (2:59-2:55). I’m also praying for no humidity and a nice little tailwind, I do believe in running miracles, but if that doesn’t happen I will simply do my best.  My mantra this time is: race smart, run strong, dare greatly. I’m sending love and luck to all the runners out running the marathon on Saturday.  You ALL inspire me.

While there is no easy marathon, we can train ourselves to embrace the journey we are on, surrender to the hurt of it, find peace with how it turns out, and ultimately love it for what it teaches us.  Happy running friends!

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