Marathon Training Week 3: Marathon Mindset

by Karl Gruber

“Mind is everything: muscles – pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.”
-legendary runner, Paavo Nurmi (1968)

This quote from one of the greatest runners of all-time, Paavo Nurmi, (winner of 9 gold medals and 3 silver medals in the Olympics from 1920-1928, in track & field), is a great summation of what needs to be done as you prepare to run a marathon.

Through dedicated and consistent training of your body, you get your fitness level to where it needs to be to succeed, however, if your mind does not align with the your running goals with what you are preparing your body to achieve, then the likeliness of your marathoning success becomes greatly diminished.

I know a young woman who ran for 8 years in high school and college in both track and cross country, and she was a very talented runner. However, when it came to racing, she would either win or completely crash and burn, all because her mind – her self-confidence, and mental training, were not backing up her physical effort. Unfortunately, I think we all know someone like this, and this physical/mental quandary extends not just to running, but to all avenues of life. 

“A man runs with his mind and emotions, just as much as with his legs and circulatory system…The mental-emotional aspects of training should be just as carefully planned as the physical aspects.” – Kenneth Doherty (1964)

There are, of course, countless studies that have been done on the mental aspects of achieving success with athletic goals, and I can personally attest to this. Throughout my years of running marathons, many a time I went to the starting line feeling liked a whipped puppy dog. I didn’t sleep well, I had a cold the week before, my left knee was achy, however, I knew that I had done the physical workouts I needed to get my body in shape to accomplish running 26.2 miles. More importantly, I knew deep within my heart and mind that I could, I absolutely could accomplish this! Creating a solid self-confidence is a key factor in achieving your running and marathoning success. 

One of my all-time favorite books on athletics and life is Denny Dicke’s small, but wisdom-packed Unleash The Champion. Dicke, a 5-time high school state track champion, and collegiate All-American runner at Ohio State University, categorically states, “Nothing great has ever been achieved without first believing that it can be done.”

One of the best techniques for attaining and instilling self-confidence is visualization. I’m sure we have all heard stories about how athletes prepare for an upcoming competition by visualizing in their head, prior to the event, in high definition, every move, every strategy, every technique that they plan on accomplishing. This puts your body and mind on the same page and in perfect alignment to produce the results you desire – in this case, running a marathon. Dicke goes on to say, “The most effective tool for building confidence and belief is a technique called visualization.” 

Dickie’s 3 Step Visualization Process is:
Step 1 – Every night before falling asleep, close your eyes and see and feel yourself doing your very best in your race.
Step 2 – Repeat this same process of visualizing your success in your race immediately upon waking up the next morning.
Step 3 – The day before the race, go to the site of your race and watch yourself perform just as you have been each night and morning. If not able to visit the race site, repeat steps 1 and 2.

“By the time the day of your athletic event occurs you will wake up and feel like it is Christmas morning. You will feel a sense of great anticipation that you cannot wait to get started and do what you have already seen happen many times before!” says Dicke.

Your success in the marathon lies not only in physically training your body to endure and raise it to its needed fitness level, but also in training your mind and raising your self-confidence by utilizing the easy-to-do technique of visualization.

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