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Tales from the Grateful Runner...

10 Years Ago I Walked These Streets, My Dreams Were Riding Tall

It's been 10 years since I've run the Boston Marathon and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this life-changing experience once again. Back in 2005 my life was much different - I was in my early 30's, single, and not a care in the world. A decade later, I'm in my early 40's, married, and have two kids. The two constants in that time have been running and the Grateful Dead. So, while I mentally prepare for the Boston Marathon this coming Monday by completing one more short run, visiting my chiropracter for one more adjustment and kinseo taping, and listening to copius amounts of Jerry and the Grateful Dead, I'd like to share a few mental tips with all of you...

I’ll make this pithy…success on Marathon Monday comes down to your mindset. Will you choose to achieve success or avoid failure for 26.2 miles?

  • Identify negative/overwhelming thoughts you have about the race and reframe them to something positive – negative thoughts will restrict you mentally and negatively impact your running

  • Break the race down into more manageable segments - avoid thinking of the marathon in its totality (26.2 miles can seem overwhelming, especially if you start out a little rocky)

  • Finish your taper strong – no need for any extra training at this point as it will provide no benefit on performance, it could actually hurt it

A few mental skills to practice over the next couple of days

  • Visualize your performance – many of us know the course well, so see yourself running in a strong/powerful manner at all points along the course (start/middle/finish)

  • Create some positive trigger words – but make sure they are realistic and you believe them

  • Develop a few routines/rituals to help you control as much of the race and your performance as possible…what do you like to eat the night before a long run? do you like to shower before the race? Eat before putting on your gear? Listen to certain songs? Stretch a certain way?

  • Stick to what’s familiar at this point – it’s one thing to get some advice on how to mentally prepare for the race, but don’t start changing your diet, running gear, etc., as it will only lead to confusion, worry, and doubt.

Believe it or not, the hard part is over – training through over 100 inches of snow and below freezing temps was not easy! The nerves you feel are merely excitement. The training is the difficult part; the marathon is the fun part. Acknowledge the nerves, accept them, embrace them, take advantage of them – it’s a sign you are ready to compete; not a sign you are on the verge of failing. Control your excitement when the gun goes off….adrenaline may cause you to run at a much faster pace than you can maintain…use a trigger phase such as “slow & steady” to help control your pace.

Hopefully we will all have a peak performance on Monday but the reality is we may not. To help manage race day issues, make a list of some legitimate problems you may encounter on race day and come up with your solutions to these problems. There will always be something that pops up that we never saw coming, and in this case, view it as just another challenge within the challenge of the marathon. It’s one more hurdle you need to clear on your way to the finish line. No matter how much of a challenge you may be having, constantly remind yourself that your training, your belief in yourself, your dedication to your Charity, etc., will be all you need to pull you through.

Keep your focus on things that are within your control - things that if you don’t like, you can actually change. Things like your diet, your attitude, your plans for the weekend, what you are going to wear the day of the race, etc. Do not spend your time worrying about the weather – we can’t change it. Do not spend your time wishing the start time was different – we can’t change it. Do not spend your time worrying about what other people will think about your performance – we can’t change it. The more you focus on yourselves and what you can control, the more enjoyment and satisfaction you’ll have on Marathon Monday.

Music can be a powerful motivator when trying to snap out of a bad stretch. Sometimes a simple lyric can put everything in perspective and get you back on track. So when you are feeling fatigued, exhausted, and worn down – remember this fitting line sung by the great Jerry Garcia - “struggling man has got to move, struggling man has no time lose, I’m a struggling man…and I’ve got to move on”….That gets me back in the groove, hopefully it will for all of you…

The simplest of mind tricks can really enhance your running experience. One thing that I like to do to boost my confidence and keep my mind “in the moment” during the last few miles of a marathon is to repeat the following mantra every time I breathe – “with every breath I take, I get stronger”. This phrase makes me feel like a more poised, balanced and efficient runner – which is critical when trying to finish the marathon feeling strong and feeling proud. Here are a few additional mental triggers to think about between now and the finish line:

On Marathon Monday…

  • I will have the confidence needed to succeed

  • I will engage in realistic, positive self-talk throughout the race

  • I will take charge of my feelings and not have any emotional breakdowns if adversity comes my way

  • I will have a game plan for my race that will help keep me focused on what I have to do

  • I will stay focused on the little things I do that make me a great runner

  • I will run my best and be satisfied with what I have accomplished

  • I will always say “I Can”


DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHALLENGE YOURSELF and MAKE SUCCESS HAPPEN on Marathon Monday. Soak in the excitement, the pageantry, and the unique experience that makes the Boston Marathon the greatest marathon in the world.

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