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NYC Running Mama: The Mental Side of Running

For the past few years, I have had successful and strong marathon training cycles. I’ve gone into my goal races physically prepared for the miles that were in front of me.

But there was always something missing as each race began— and as a result, I came up well short of my goal. One race was even a DNF for no other reason except that I quit.

The mental strength was missing. I had spent months strengthening my body— nailing workouts, completing long runs. But I paid zero attention to the mental side of running. As a result, I was not prepared to quiet the negative thoughts when they started creeping in during the later miles of the marathons. My mind would quit long before my body was ready to. Once the mind gives up, the body doesn’t stand a chance.

Physical strength will get you to the start line. But mental strength will get you to the finish line.

Here are some ways I’m focusing on the mental side of running this training cycle:

  • Embrace and acknowledge your weaknesses so that they become your strengths. This was the biggest step I made last fall. Once I came to terms with my weaknesses, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It opened my mind and heart to opportunities and ways to improve my mental stamina.
  • Become a book worm. There are a plethora of great books, guides and self-help books available for you to build your mental “muscle”. My favorite so far has been Mind Gym by Gary Mack.
  • Visualize race day. I have visualized race day plenty of times in the past. It’s easy to imagine yourself running the last few miles with a smile on your face and a new PR to your name. But I had never visualized the negative. These days I’ve been imagining myself working through the low points of the race so that when it happens, I’ll have the confidence to keep moving.
  • Positive affirmations. Last week, I began standing in front of the mirror and repeating positive mantras to myself that I plan to use on race day.
    • You are strong.
    • You are physically and mentally prepared.
    • You can run this pace for a few more miles.
    • You can do this.
  • Get rid of the self-defeating thoughts. My mind immediately thinks of what I don’t want to happen. “I don’t want to go out too fast. I don’t want to hit the wall. I don’t want to fail.” Rather than filling my mind with things that I don’t want to happen, I’ve been working on filling it up with positive thoughts. “I will start conservative. I will be ready for the pain of the later miles. I will give it my best.”

Related: Does Running Ever Get Easier

What are some ways you strengthen your mind? Tweet me (@nycrunningmama) with your ideas!

NYC Running Mama

Michele Gonzalez is a mom of two young boys, a marathoner, Ironman and ultrarunner. She is a West Point grad and former Army Captain/Iraqi Veteran x3, as well as an ambassador for Sparkly Soul Headbands, Garmin and Generation UCAN. She blogs at NYCRunningMama.com