So, I have a bit of a problem. It has to do with my training, though not the physical aspect of it. I’m logging my miles and keeping pace and resting when I’m supposed to. The marathon I’m running is in about 6 weeks, and while I’m pretty sure I won’t have a problem finishing my training schedule, I’m having a hard time getting excited about the part where I run the race. Sure, I’m tired and that has something to do with it. And 26 miles is still a long way, even if I have done it a couple of times before. But the real problem, I think, is that whenever I imagine being on the course, I think about all the things that could go wrong. Unexpected cramping. Dehydration. Tripping. Not being able to keep pace. Unplanned bathroom breaks. Pebbles in my shoes. And, mostly, the vague nausea that dragged me down at the end of my last marathon run.
I’m doing all I can to make sure race day goes smoothly and predictably — I’ll eat the same thing I eat every morning, hydrate, wear clothes I’ve run in before, make friends with the porta-potty before the race, etc. — but I’m aware that things don’t always go well, no matter how well trained I am. And in trying to prepare myself for the possibility of a less than stellar performance, I kind of feel like I’m setting myself up for failure.
When I visualize mile 20, I see myself slowing down. I imagine that I am tired. I think that that is where things will likely get hard. And when I see the finish line, I imagine the time on the clock being much farther along than I hope it will be. Clearly, this is not a good thing for my training and my goals. So, with six weeks left until the race, I’m embarking on a new phase of training. It’s the phase where I change my visions of race day from cautiously pessimistic to strongly optimistic.
I’ll practice imagining myself riding on a horse, or seeing my legs as bicycle wheels, or envisioning my pain trailing behind me in ribbons of energy. I’ll picture my time splits for that last 10K, and the barely believable time on the clock as I cross the finish line. I’ll be watching myself succeed over and over and over again on the movie screen in my head until I have the script down pat and I know all my queues by heart. I’ll look forward to the part where I get to dig deep and overcome whatever challenges arise. And, come race day, I’ll hope and pray I don’t get stage fright.
If you have any other helpful visualization techniques or powerful images that help you when you get in a tired, crampy, painful, or discouraged spot, please share.