Once you have decided you want to run a marathon you know you will have to train and prepare for it. You can’t just decide a week before that you are going to do it; there is the need to get to your body in shape, and your mindset as well. A marathon is the most grueling race you can attempt, and if you don’t learn to develop the mental toughness that is required you are setting yourself up for a lot of pain. Just as I didn’t one day show up at the USA Memory Championship. I spent months training for the tournament and of course you can imagine it was a mental work out.

Your brain has the ability to overcome physical pain. That is why prisoners-of-war are able to withstand torture; and how Navy SEALs can push themselves past the limits their bodies tell them they can. When preparing for the 26.2-mile event you need to get your head together, and understand that when your body tells you it’s tired your brain has to convince it that it’s not. How can it do that? By training smart and being prepared for both the mental and physical challenges you will encounter.

You are bound to encounter some “bad patches” in the later miles of the race. You have to develop the mental toughness and coping skills that will add to your confidence and help you avoid running into that dreaded “wall,” especially when you get to that 20-mile marker. The point is if you have “race head,” (That’s the period of time in the weeks building up to the race where the runner gets mentally prepared for the challenge) you can overcome all the obstacles you will encounter throughout the race.

1.      Begin your training by taking short runs, gradually working your way up to long runs.

2.      Believe in yourself! Starting out with the proper mindset is essential.

3.      Make sure you have done all the important pre-race preparations. Get extra sleep, especially the week before the race. Drinking more fluids and load up on carbs. Focus – forget other distractions that take your focus off your training (like what you want for dinner).

4.      Realize that the excitement of race day – when your brain is at it sharpest and your adrenalin is pumping (especially the first miles when time seems to fly by), will not hold you up for the entire 26.2 miles. You will have to draw from some other resources when that adrenalin rush is over.

5.      Run the “negative split. ” Start out slow the first half of the race and when you hit the halfway point start to add speed. This is the key to running a smart race. Your body is going to thank you the second half of the race.

6.      Don’t let other people passing you make you want to increase your pace. Think about those drivers who weave in and out of traffic and pass everyone to get ahead. How many times have you caught up to them at the next stoplight? Run your own race, at your own pace.

7.       You may have the energy during the first 10 miles to high-5 family and friends that you pass, but reserve that energy – you’re going to need it later.

8.      When you have completed mile 10 start breaking up the race into smaller segments so it doesn’t seem too much more to go. Use a memory trick; breaking things up into smaller pieces are easier to manage. Keeping your mind on shorter chunks of distance doesn’t seem so daunting.

9.      The longer you go the more you will start to doubt your ability to finish. Keep a positive attitude. You have trained for this and are prepared. Keep tough! Keep your mind occupied with diversions: sing songs, recite the words of a play, and use “boredom-battling tricks.” Keeping your mind occupied will take it away from the pain your body is feeling, and make the time go faster.

10.  When you have passed the “20 mile wall” begin to focus on things outside the race – spectators, their signs, the scenery, etc. Take your mind away from the pain your body is beginning to feel.

11.  Visualize and use imagery. See yourself gracefully crossing that finish line as the finish line tape wrapping around you. Play “road games” like you did on road trips as a kid. (How many people do you see with red shirts? How many can you count are wearing blue hats?) Make up games for yourself to keep your mind occupied.

12.  Continue to think of the course in short distances. Nearing the end you need to dig deep for strength, but you are almost there. You can do it, and you brain is helping you along.  Continue to divert your attention from your body. Tell yourself how proud you are of what you have accomplished.

The end of the race, and you passed with flying colors! Time to party!

This is an article on marathon running but you will notice we didn’t actually talk about running. We talked about the mental side of preparing for a marathon. The mental toughness. When I trained for the USA Memory Championship many of these same principles I put into place to keep me focused and disciplined as I headed towards my goal of becoming the USA Memory Champion

This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion , memory training expert, and memory keynote speaker. Getting prepared to run any race, whether it’s short or long, requires your mind in the right state. You can accomplish anything if you believe you can.





Marathon Training – Preparing for the Long Run: http://www.marathontraining.com/marathon/m_longr.html

Running Advice and News – Training: the first-time marathon runner 20-mile anguish: http://coachjoeenglish.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/training-the-first-time-marathon-runner-20-miler-mental-anguish/

Ask.com – Mental tips for Marathon Running: http://running.about.com/od/distancerunningtips/qt/mental_tips.htm