MMRF Endurance Events

Marathon Training Tips - Week 11

Week #11 – Mental Training

Years ago, running a mile in under four minutes was believed to be impossible. Many also believed that doing so could cause serious physical injury. Then along came Roger Bannister who, on May 6, 1954, became the first person to break the four-minute mile barrier. Although this was indeed an impressive feat, more noteworthy to me was what happened afterward.

Forty six days later, Bannister’s rival, John Landy, also broke the four minute mile, beating Bannister’s time in the process. More than a dozen runners did the same thing within a few years. When people believed it could be done, they accomplished this seemingly unachievable goal.

There are two types of mental training that are extremely beneficial to marathon runners: self talk and visualization.

Self Talk: This refers to the internal monologues that play in our minds. These are the thoughts and conversations we have with ourselves. The longer the race, the more time there is to think. The key is to harness your thoughts to your advantage, because so much hinges on your mental state. If you can learn to control your thoughts, you can dramatically improve your race experience, both in practice and on race day. You can use self talk to do the following:

  • Create and change your mood: (“I am ready.” “This is my day.” “I feel great.”)

  • Control your effort: (“Nice and easy.” “Float.” “Push it.” “Hammer.” “Keep it up.”)

  • Improve your form: (“Relax the shoulders.” “Fast foot turnover.” “Relax the breathing.”)

  • Focus your attention: (Try to clear your mind. Repeat a simple mantra: “Focus.” Or “This is mine.”)

Visualization: Top athletes in all fields spend a certain amount of time each week visualizing themselves having a great performance, and you should too! All you need to do is spend a few minutes "seeing" yourself succeed in your marathon situation. I like to visualize the whole process, from the minute I wake up on race morning until the minute I cross the finish line. You can perform your visualization exercises while you stretch - or anywhere that you can find a quiet space and a few minutes.

Spend some time on the race website checking out the course. Read what you can about the marathon. Talk to other runners who have run it. This way you will have some details that will help you really visualize in detail.

If the race is near you, try to train on the course if you can. If not, you can often see pictures online and even watch YouTube videos of people racing on the course. This type of visualization of the actual course will add a whole new dimension to your confidence level. You will be way ahead before you even start your race if you incorporate this practice into your marathon preparations.