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20 Miles & Mental Preparation for the Marathon

by Marissa on October 20, 2014

mental preparation for the marathon

Last weekend was my longest long run during my training for the TCS NYC Marathon. 

That 20 miler haunted me for most of my training.  

As much as I wanted to look forward to it and be excited about it, I was too scared. Scared of what? I have no idea.

Running 20 miles is daunting and even though I’ve done it before, it’s been awhile. Anything can happen. I wanted that 20 miles to be good because it would make or break my confidence for race day. 

Overall, my training has been great but there have been some questionable long runs. My 13 miles the weekend before in the rain was difficult so I wanted to make up for it with this 20 mile long run and go into taper feeling capable. 

When we woke up Saturday morning and it was cold and rainy, all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. 

Instead, we practiced how our race morning would go and hoped that race day would bring better weather.  

By the end of 20 miles I was beaming. I had a fantastic long run, my fueling strategy worked like a charm and though I was tired sore and soaking wet, I finished strong. 

You can’t ask for much more from a 20 mile run. 

Looking back, I wish I’d spent less time fretting and more time practicing the mental preparation for the marathon that we learned in the seminar on nutritional and mental preparation for the marathon at New York University Langone Center for Musculoskeletal Care

Many of these strategies I’ve used in the past and used during last Saturday’s long run and I can say that they work!

For any race, training your mind is just as important as training your body. After all, they say that a marathon is mostly mental. 

Mental Preparation for the Marathon with Clinical Psychologist, Bonnie Marks 

1. Visualize: Visualize yourself performing successfully; focus on the process, not the outcome 

2. Mental Rehearsal: Create a mental video of imagery before and during the race. Imagine feeling calm, focused and energetic during the most difficult parts of the race. Prepare specific mental visuals, phrases or words at particular cue spots 

3. Positive Statements: Stay focused by repeating inspiring words or phrases, instructional self talk and other positive statements to control panic. 

4. Mindfulness: Staying present keeps you connected to your body, mind and environment. 

5. Relaxation Techniques: These are helpful to control tension before and during the race and can come in the form of a 10 minute daily meditation, deep breathing and pre-performance rituals that are settling and calming. 

6. Goal Setting: Set goals that are specific, clear, measurable, attainable and reasonable. Make sure to review all pre-race details. 

7. Mental Toughness: This is like building a muscle but for your mind. Mental toughness helps you avoid distractions, shrug off failures, rebound from defeat and stay focused. 

A couple of strategies that have really helped me are to repeat a simple mantra during difficult parts of my long run. Something simple like, “Relax” or “You’ve got this.” I also found a song I l0ve called “Waves” which has a nice tempo but I also find it calming. I’ve been playing that song when I need to dig deeper and it helps me relax into my run. I just hope I don’t overplay it come Marathon Sunday. 

Bonnie Marks shared a quote that I thought was really beautiful but I can’t recall and I didn’t write down who said it, but here it is: 

 Now, we taper!


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