Back in July, I was trying to figure out how to keep my head in a good place as I resumed
running after struggling with a flareup of an old hip injury.
I was also working on two stories that required me to talk to sports psychologists about motivation, one for Women’s Running and another for Running Times. My conversations with them made me examine my own pre-run routine, start focusing on tackling one step, one mile, one lap at a time, keep a journal tracking my thoughts before and during a run, and, most importantly, identify my negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. Fittingly, just as I’m preparing to run the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday, the Women’s Running story ran this week (it’s not live online yet, but check out page 26 if you’re a subscriber!), and I wanted to share the tips I’ll be using on race day:
My mantras. I like to remind myself that months of core- and hip-strengthening workouts have made me as injury-proof as possible. I also like to remind myself that, after a run, I feel both powerful and graceful — feelings that can be hard to channel in the painful heat of the moment. So I repeat: Strength, power and grace. I’ve borrowed a few from other runners: Dig deep. Make your training count. Go get your medal. This is your day, your race, your town. You own this! And: this will make my tushy less cushy. This last one sounds awful. But during your next tough race or speed workout, ask yourself: Would I like my tushy to be less cushy? See if it doesn’t make you pick up the pace.
My gratitude and motivation. Sports psychologist Kay Porter suggests thanking your body as if it’s a separate person. I will give my body constant shout-outs during the race, and will promise it an ice bath, a protein shake, a good dinner out, a post-race massage. I also express thanks that I can run at all. All but a few other runners I know who signed up for the full marathon back in May ended up injured. I’m one of the lucky ones. In a grander sense, I’m running for my dad, who isn’t a runner, but a lifelong skier and outdoor enthusiast whose active life was compromised by a series of health complications, to include Parkinson’s disease. If I can’t buck up and get tough after imagining how much he’d love to go ski moguls, I’m not sure what will motivate me.
My reward. Shalane Flanagan’s sports psychologist tells runners to smile at the starting line, and say: “There’s no place I’d rather be right now.” This is the reward, not a punishment! Sunday is my victory lap. There’s no pressure here, only the promise of an amazing experience.
My visualization techniques. I have imagined this race from every angle, and have pictured it going according to plan (check out my series breaking down the race in five-mile chunks here).
I’ll post some photos after hitting up the expo today. In the meantime, anyone who wishes to track lucky Bib No. 5345 can sign up for updates every 5K here.