Gain an advantage in your race without adding another mile

The average person running a half marathon will train for 12 weeks. They will run  approximately 213.1 miles, rest 24 days and cross train for 11 days. The average person running a full marathon will train for 18 weeks. They will run 477 miles, rest 36 days and cross train for 17 days. I guarantee if you follow the average program, without illness or injury, your body WILL have the ability to finish your half marathon or your full marathon, no doubt. Will you run an like an Olympian? No, because you have not trained like an Olympian. Finishing a half marathon or a full marathon is an enormous accomplishment.

What’s the secret to gaining an advantage going into your next race without adding another mile? You can train your mind!! According to Dr. Tim Noakes in his book,  The Lore of Running, “most athletes are physically overeducated but emotionally undereducated.” He goes on to say, “focus exclusively on those variables over which you have complete control: goal setting, visualization and arousal control.” Dr. Noakes explains that thinking about a specific exercise task produces the same brain activity that occurs when the actual task is performed. I love this quote from Sport Psychology Today.

The problem with most people is that they program their subconscious mind with negative coordinates. The visualize images of failure, they replay mistakes, they think about negative scenarios that might happen, and picture the negative consequences that may arise. Unfortunately the subconscious mind doesn’t judge. It doesn’t say “those coordinates are negative so I’ll just ignore them”. In that way it’s very similar to the GPS system in your car. The GPS doesn’t judge, it simply takes you to the programmed destination. The theatre of your mind is the one place where you can ensure success. You can execute skills flawlessly, you can dominate your competition, and you can ensure victory. By visualizing success, you program your subconscious to move towards success. “The Power of Visualization” by Matt Neason

The keys to preparing your mind lie in the following: visualization, setting targets and positive reinforcement. Here are some examples of each key.


  • include as much detail as you can using all your senses
  • hear the crowd
  • smell the enviornment
  • feel the road
  • feel the wind
  • taste your drink/food

Setting targets:

  • in the beginning of the race your targets will cover more ground. In a half marathon, it might look like this, a certain pace for the first 10K, a certain pace from mile 6.1 to mile 8.9.
  • in last 25% of the race your targets will cover less ground, ie. certain pace for mile 9-10, mile 10-11, etc. Earlier goals are easier to achieve because you are fresh and pumped up. In the last 25% of any race you will be exceptionally tired. You keep your goals in small increments because they will feel tougher and uncomfortable at first. As you achieve success in these later targets, you will strive toward the next.

Positive reinforcement: (Here are some examples from Magical Running by Bobby McGee)

  • I am very strong
  • I am patient
  • Each step relaxes me more
  • I love hills
  • I am a champion experiencing the challenges of the journey to the top
  • I can handle anything
  • I am powerful
  • I am deserving
  • By holding my form & relaxing, I ensure an excellent finish
  • I love running
  • I can commit to an excellent level of running, no matter how I feel
  • I am prepared to run
  • I will see challenges as a normal phenomenon
  • I will choose to master the race

Magical Running taught me that we affirm ourselves all the time, both positively and negatively. You cannot simply “get rid” of the negative thoughts (affirmations).  You must fill your mind with the positive affirmations to the point that there is not room for the negative to remain. I used to work endlessly with the negative thoughts, ie. I am slow. I am weak. I am fat. I wasted my time on the lies that these are and tried to refute each one. Now, I believe it does not have to be that complicated. If I can spend time each day to positively affirm who I am and what I am capable of doing,  I start to believe “I am strong”, “I am beautiful”, “I am loved”, “I love hills”. . . . The negative affirmations have no weight.

4 thoughts on “Gain an advantage in your race without adding another mile

  1. Teresa Keffer

    Not to long-using this coaching tonight when teaching spin. Wrote down each phrase to have each participant mentally say during the interval sprints. love the “challenges are a normal phenomenon” . why do we forget this?

    1. ooartist1234 Post author

      Positive reinforcement is so powerful. It sounds corny, until you really work at it. I think too many people think that they can get rid of the negative thoughts by ‘refusing’ each time they enter the brain. What I am learning is that you cannot. BUT, if you put in the positive, the more you practice putting in the positive, there will be no more space for the negative.


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