Mind games: Preparing my head for the marathon

Last week marked the high point of my Wineglass Marathon training. I logged 48 miles last week, which, I’m pretty sure is a personal best, culminating in a pretty solid 20-mile run, my third of this training season. This week still features some miles and some pace work, but the intensity and distance are dialed back. This is the time when I focus on my mind, on my mental game. You know, the aspect of life which trips me up at nearly ever turn.

My good friend Jenny reminded me that I am ready for this marathon, that all I need to do is keep my mind on track, to delve into the area of really seeing and believing what I want to do on race day. Jenny told me:

You are physically ready. Honestly, it’s mindset. If you see it, you will make it happen. Sounds silly, but envision yourself crossing that finish line with the time you want on the clock. Actually visualize it. Remember that your body is ready. All you need to do is tell your mind what you want and you’ll be fine.

True confession: I’ve had difficulty reconciling my desire to race without being tied to a specific outcome and using measurable outcomes as a way to structure my training. When I race without any sort of time goal, I have fun and yet I wonder what I could have done if I had some structure. When I race with a particular finishing time in mind, I get wrapped up in that number and feel frustrated if I fail to accomplish the named outcome. So there must be some happy medium, right? As I’ve worked to find that happy medium, here is what I’ve learned about time expectations over the last few years:

  • First times should have no specific outcome expectations. I had a time goal for my first marathon. I woefully missed it for a variety of reasons. But really, I should have created a more general goal, like finishing the marathon and being proud of the accomplishment. Many people talk about running a marathon. Few actually do. My inaugural effort should not have been wrapped up in a pace goal.
  • Expect what I trained for. While I believe the universe supports me, it supports me in the things I create. Hence, if I want to run a marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes, I need to train to run a marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes. (This, for the record, is not my current marathon goal.) Yes, I may run faster on race day, but I’m not suddenly going to run a pace I have never trained at. The universe will provide me tools to get to where I want to go, but it’s up to me to actually use those tools.
  • Visualize and trust. In the past, I have tried to visualize time goals but it didn’t really work. It didn’t feel right. Why? Because (a) I had not trained for that time in the first place and (b) I didn’t really believe I could do it. It was wishful thinking, not positive reinforcement. But when I trust my training, when I believe in myself, I set myself up for a completely different outcome. Maybe I’ll hit that time goal. Maybe I won’t. The key is to remember that the time goal doesn’t define who I am, unless I let it.

Thanks to Jenny’s reminder, I’m ready to start mentally preparing for the Wineglass Marathon. I know what I’ve trained to do. I know I am prepared. I believe, really believe, that I’m ready. Just like I practice physical aspects of my race, I now practice mental aspects as well. The saying goes that thoughts become things. If that’s true, how much more enjoyable would life be if I thought of what I wanted rather than what I feared?

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