Training Your Mind

I’ve been training for this weekend’s marathon for three months. Some runs were good, some were bad. I skipped some because of travels. I rocked some because I felt great.

I regret that I failed to complete any legitimate speed work even though I wrote it into my plan. But what’s done is done.

All the miles and training (or lack thereof) are behind me now. I have 4 days until the race. Now it’s time to focus on getting my mind ready to tackle this challenge.IMG_2274

The mental aspects of running a marathon are huge. I’ve heard some people say it’s just as much mental as physical and I can believe it. There are days when I go into a run  knowing it’s going to be a good one – and it is. And other are other times when I am feeling negative and my run is bad because of it.

When I step outside for a long run 90% of the time I know whether it’s going to be a good or bad run within a few minutes.

I’ve been really psyching myself out these last few days. My last few long runs were slower than my goal pace. My legs have felt heavy. Overall, I just don’t feel fast – or confident.

With 4 days until the race I can’t add any runs to boost my confidence. Now it’s all about positive thoughts and good mantras. All I can do now is get my head in the race.

Run The Planet offers some positive thoughts to tell yourself during the tough parts of a run and suggests imagery too:

Examples of mental strategies during your training

Self-talk thoughts Think and say to yourself…

  • "If this was easy, then everybody could complete a marathon"
  • "Keep running… Maybe I will feel better when I have some drink"
  • "If I quit now, I will be very disappointed in myself later this afternoon"
  • "I am not really physically tired; I am more fatigued mentally"
  • "Completing this important training run will give me confidence and enable me to finish the marathon comfortably"
  • "In just one more hour this run will be finished and I will be in at home… showering, relaxing, eating, etc."

Imagery Imagine…

  • Imagine that you are a world-class runner and are in the lead of the Boston or Olympic marathon.
  • Imagine that your running form is smooth and graceful.
  • Imagine that your a running effortlessly and very relaxed.

This morning I drank a cup of coffee to make sure it was okay in my stomach – I plan on drinking some on race day and wanted to be sure. Then, I set off on my last 6 miler before Long Beach. I wish I would have been faster, but I’ve got to talk myself up now.

Today is Waffle Wednesday. Does anyone else think Waffle Wednesday sounds like Awful Wednesday? Tragic.

But, I only had one lonely waffle left. I decided to top it with AB and PB (pumpkin butter) and have a big smoothie on the side.IMG_2276

I don’t normally put bananas in my smoothies, but did it today. Totally didn’t realize what I was missing :) IMG_2280

But one waffle is not enough, so I grabbed a sandwich thin and slathered it with more PB. Love. IMG_2282

Question: What do you tell yourself when you want to quit?

What do you tell yourself to get pumped up?

You have until 8PM PST today to enter my Commit to Fit giveaway.


  1. says

    “QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION” I told myself that several times during Hood to Coast. You are right. A big race is mental too. I pumped myself up, told myself that I WAS going to cross that finish line running. And I did it.

    Good luck this weekend!

  2. says

    I tell myself many of things you just listed like “I’ll be dissapointed in myself if I don’t finish,” and “I’ll be at home eating and relaxing in just a little while”. It never hurts to be reminded though! :)

  3. says

    When I feel like quitting, I just tell myself that I’ll regret it. Since I know regret leads to disppointment, self loathing and all around negativity, that usually works.

    Good luck this weekend!

  4. says

    Whenever I’m feeling like I want to quit, I give myself permission to stop…in X miles or when I get to the next tree, etc…when I get to that milestone, I give myself another one and another one and so on until I accomplish my goal/mileage. Just a little bit of trickery. Works everytime.

  5. Kianni says

    It’s an odd feeling, because you phrased it “when you want to quit” I usually NEVER want to quit, in the sense of acting on it, even when I’m feeling stressed and like I can’t do it. I may draw out scenarios about what would happen if I quit (while running) which distracts me, and then I realize I”d rather not- but that is is because I realize for the most part, it’s in my head. I know if I wait it out or allow myself to freak out internally that 20 minutes late I’ll have forgotten how “hard it was” and then it may happen again but then..I forget again! lol. I always feel agonized for the most part through at least one part of a run, but I know I won’t remember it (specifically) the rest of the day. I know it felt bad, but not enough to bring back the feeling..make sense? hehe -.-“” I also know it’s only in my head because when it ACTUALLY gets PHYSICALLY hard it just causes me to focus more.

  6. says

    I need a mantra. Thoughts are literally just flying around like crazy in my head. Nothing makes sense. I can’t even figure out how I got myself into this – four days away!!

    Your training has been motivational and inspirational. These past few days I’ve been thinking about what you said in Chicago – better to be under trained than over trained. Taper is the biggest mind game!

  7. says

    I spend all of race week thinking about all of the hard training I’ve done, the rain I’ve run in, the snow, the sleet, the heat, the injuries I’ve fended off, the fuel I’ve consumed, EVERYTHING! It makes me confident I can and will have a great race! GOOD LUCK with the next 4 days!

  8. D says

    i’m training for my first marathon so i have no legit advice except good luck and i’m sure you’re worrying for nothing :)

    you mentioned that your long runs have been slower than goal pace, but i’ve been reading a ton about marathon training, and everything i have read says to run your long runs 45-90 seconds slower than goal pace. *confused face*

  9. Ida says

    I’m running a marathon on sunday too, and feel undertrained. But no matter what race day will make me a stronger and smarter runner and that counts for something. I’m just going to run one mile at a time and hope for the best. Good luck to you!

  10. says

    Big fan of imagery and mantras. During my marathon, when it got really, really hard, I would picture myself as a leaf gliding and blowing effortlessly along the ground. It really helped me disconnect my mind from the pain my body was feeling. And the mantras? Well, I am embarrassed because they are cheesy as hell, but I tend to pick one positive thought that runs through my mind at the time and then just say it over and over again to the rhythm of my footsteps. “I am a leaf, I have no pain” (used during marathon) and “Strong legs, strong, heart, strong lungs”. There you have it – cheesy, but they worked for me! :) Good luck at your race. You are gonna do great!!!

  11. Katie says

    … I’ve never commented before but I just ran my first marathon last week and it was all about positive thinking so I figured I’d weigh in!

    My friend called me the night before my run and said “listen, its gonna hurt, but if you lose the mental game, that’s when you’re done.” And it was SO TRUE.

    I positive self-talked my way through 42.2km. At every km marker, I chanted in my hear “You’re good to go! This is awesome! Look at you being awesome!” and it totally got me through the run with a smile on my face.

    I don’t buy into the whole guilt thing – “you’ll feel bad about it later if you stop”. Pumping yourself up is WAY more effective and makes for a much more fun run! Even when I ended up walking up a big hill at km 38, I was like “Well, this is just straight up ridiculous!”, had a little laugh, and started running again at the top of the hill. Have a good time with it!

  12. says

    I always repeat…”Run Happy, Run Strong”.

    If I’m really struggling, I start at my toes and work my way up to my head saying to myself, “My toes are getting stronger…my feet are getting stronger…my shins are getting stronger…etc”. It usually makes me feel empowered!

  13. says

    You are so right, getting over the mental part is half the battle. I always use these little tricks to zone out during my run. One of my favorites is thinking about the big bowl of oatmeal I will consume when the run is over. It works almost every time! 😉

    You are going to be so amazing this weekend Monica! :)

  14. says

    If it makes you feel any better, after running a marathon last weekend I am sooooo sad to not be training for anything now and I’m very, very jealous of you!!!! You will have a BLAST and keep in mind that not only would I love to be in your shoes, but thousands of people would like to be in your shoes as well… those who are injured and cannot race, those who would love to be able to run a marathon but simply aren’t at that level of fitness yet…. I always try to tell myself how LUCKY I am to be in the position to be running a race :)

  15. says

    After my first 26.2 (March), I realized what a mental game the marathon truly is. This time around, I focused Much more on a strong mentality – going into each run letting it become what it would, not letting my mood or attitude affect it (unless for the better 😉 ). Every time I want to quit, I remind myself “this run will make me stronger”. It helps! And eventually you push through a wall that lets you keep going!

    You’re going do to GREAT on Sunday!

  16. Jen says

    Do you find that caffeine helps you when you run?

    I’ve heard mixed reviews. Heh though all of my rugby-playing friends, at least, swear by it… they hit up a Starbucks an hour before they head to the “pitch” without fail.

    I’m just curious… would be a nice pick-me-up before I go running in the mornings, but I’ve always been afraid to try it.

    • says

      I started drinking coffee before runs after reading that it helped performance. I don’t know if it’s really true, but I’ll take a placebo if it makes me feel better :)

  17. says

    When I did my 10k on Monday I kept repeating “If it was easy, everyone would do it” It’s SO true! I mean how many people can say they have run a marathon, let alone MARATHONS?!! Stay positive and I am sure it will be a great race.

  18. says

    For my marathon and training I had my bracelet that said, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” But on a day to day basis I tell myself, “You’ll always regret stopping, you’ll never regret finishing.”

    Some of the things I tell myself to pump myself up are, “You’re a freaking rockstar.” or “You’re out here when you could be on the couch, that’s already an accomplishment!” lol I actually usually find music to pump up my ego/mood like BEPs “Rock that Body”, Kat DeLuna “unstoppable”, and OkGo “you’re so damn hot”, just to name a few. :-)

    PS – You are amazing, and a great runner, and you are going to ROCK your marathon. Is there a way for me to track you?!?!

  19. says

    I have not run a marathon, but I do plan on giving birth naturally in 3 months and I am treating this journey just like training for a looooonnnnnng workout. What I’m learning is that it’s TOTALLY mental, and the power of the mind is staggering. I know you will do great! It will be challenging and humbling and rewarding. Can’t wait to hear all about it! xo

    • says

      That scares me a lot more than running a marathon. Seriously, my heart skipped a beat when I read this comment. I will be emailing you in 4 months to get the God’s honest truth. Good luck :)

  20. says

    Honestly, when my runs get really rough I picture Dori from Finding Nemo and I repeat to myself, “just keep swimming.” It seems to help. I also tell myself how awesome I am. A little ego boost never hurt anyone.
    I recently saw Christopher McDougall give a speech and he said we should approach race day fearless, and trusting our training. Sure there is always something we could do better, but you have to believe that you can do this.
    You will be amazing this weekend. Believe in yourself.

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