Visualize the miles

While I was tapering for the Nashville Country Music Marathon in 2007, I went on tear, scrounging up every bit of inspirational information I could to fuel my marathon obsession. Among my impulse grabs from the library: an old edition of Runner’s World’s “Guide to Running,” a sort of beginner’s running bible.

Most of the information was, as you’d imagine, pretty basic. But there’s a gem of a chapter laying out what to do, wear, eat and think every day the two weeks leading up to a marathon. Overkill? Maybe. But I’m a planner (or, as others would put it, “obsessive compulsive”), and the neat structure of it all appeals to my sense of order in the world.

I’m revisiting that chapter this week, as I chill out and wait for the Marine Corps Marathon in nine days (gulp!). It’s been instrumental in my efforts to desperately to avoid unhelpful negative thoughts (“Will my hip be so messed up after, I won’t be able to walk? Or will it just be time off running?” or: “Will I slow down 30 second per mile in the second half, or more than that?” NOT helpful.).

Since the cheesy visualization exercises are helping me so much, I’m going to share them here, and let you know how I’m applying them. One helpful suggestion: Use every training run leading up to the marathon to visualize a chunk of miles of the actual marathon. Today’s exercise: Visualize yourself running the first five miles of the race. You’re feeling strong, letting other runners whiz past you — you’ll pass them later. You’re feeling good, even able to chat with runners around you.

For me, this means the first mile through Rosslyn, the second and third miles on Lee Highway/Spout Run, and the fourth and fifth miles in Georgetown. I’ll make myself hit the water stop at mile 4. I’ll congratulate myself on running an evenly paced race as I pass 9 minutes at the first mile marker, 18 minutes at the second, and so forth, completing the first five miles in something like 45 minutes.

By the way: You should know, as I post these confessions of my dream marathon, that dream-marathon Amy adjusts to changes on the fly, gracefully retooling her goal time and resulting splits according to what her body’s telling her is possible that day. I’m not, like, married to 9-minute miles or anything.

These visualization exercises will happen on a treadmill for me today. Steve and I aren’t skipping our group run tonight because it’s our four-year wedding anniversary (happy anniversary to us!). We’d planned to go, but I don’t want to invite my head cold to come back because I’m dumb enough to run in the cold rain with an already-compromised immune system. Instead, I’ll squeeze in three 1-miler repeats sometime today, and will enjoy a nice, relaxing dinner at home with him tonight, which I think is just what the doctor ordered.


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4 responses to “Visualize the miles

  1. PunkRockRunner


    Based on your training I would think that you will look back at the 2009 MCM as a victory lap celebrating months of hard work and dedication.

    You’ve put in the time needed to exceed you’re goals and in my book you’re already a winner. I look forward to reading your race report.

    I would wish you luck, but luck is for the unprepared (kick asphalt!!)

    All the best and Happy Anniversary!


    • Thank you for this. Amazingly, it echoes a tip I got from a sports psychologist I interviewed for a story recently. He says he tells runners to view races as performances, as their chance to shine after putting in all the hard work during training. A victory lap, if you will. That’s now officially one of my race mantras!

  2. Dan Taylor

    Happy Anniversary, and good luck!

    Visualizing a chunk at a time is a great idea. Don’t forget to visualize the little bit of uphill you’re going to experience in the beginning. I’ve found it useful to crank in the elevation changes in the first two miles on a treadmill to help prepare for the uphill between mile 1 and 3 and again between 6 and 8. They’re not huge hills, but visualizing it and running it a few times helped.

    I couldn’t find an elevation chart linked directly from the MCM site, but @Marine_Marathon sent it when I asked:

    Have a great race!
    Dan (#5460)

    • Good tip! Thanks! I ran the first 20 miles of the course for a training run, and I’m glad I got to run the hills, which definitely are significant. Feeling strong on them, and not worrying about them, is part of my pre-race mental prep for sure!

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