Preparing the Mind

We spend a lot of time running, stretching, strength training, and focusing on our eating to train for the race.  However, do you give the same effort to your mind? 

We've all heard the saying, "race day is 10% physical, 90% mental."  We better spend some time on our mental preparation during our marathon training time.  This is something that is not physically demanding, but does require work.  And, the good news is that your mental potential is UNLIMITED!  Below are some ideas to help you train your mind to be ready to for race day!

Pre-Race Plan:  set up a time schedule of wake-up time and eating. Practice this plan on your long run days.  It willbecome familiar, almost habit, and will eliminate last minute worries as to what you should do race morning.

Getting to the race:  Prior to race day, drive to the race course, know where parking is available, and know where the bathrooms are located.  If you live locally in Buffalo, you can practice this on your long run days and run over part of the course.  If you live outside of Buffalo, Google map the start area, and then the day before drive over your plan.  Refer to the Buffalo Marathon Website which provides a lot of parking and helpful race day information.

Creating positive focal points: When you are training - or doing any other activity - you have many options as to where to direct your focus.  You want your focus to be on the positives, not the negatives, or the "what if's."  Make a list of possible worries or "what if's".  Then, next to each one, write down a way to counteract it with something within your control, or a positive though.  Below are two examples.  Get out your writing pad, make to columns and create your own list!

NEGATIVE Worry: The night before you start doubting yourself. 
POSITIVE Counter: Trust your preparation and look at the facts: You've done your training, you've prepared your body physically.  You've gotten through difficult and fatiguing long runs.  You've hydrated and eaten well.  Now you get to put that all to use on race day.  Believe me, it is very normal to have self-doubts, but you can control your thoughts and review the facts of your training. 
NEGATIVE Worry: Everyone else is better than me.
POSITIVE Counter:  Marathon (or half marathon) Day is about YOU and YOU ONLY. Don't fret over the others in the race.  You can't control their abilities or races.  However, you can control your race, your effort, and your positive mental thoughts.  And remember, the other runners in race are POSITIVE Competitors! They help you run better!  Ask any Olympian and they will tell you they run their best races with others around them! 

Positive Self Talk: This is a skill that needs to be practiced.  Most people are good at given themselves negative feedback.  However, POSITIVE feedback must be given, and must be practiced.  Below are some phrases that might help you.  Make up more!  Find what works for you and use them in your daily life, not just training. 

  • "Today is great; I am great!"
  • "I earned this!"
  • "I am strong"
  • "Breathe, Relax"
  • "I am prepared for the run"
  • "I am doing great"
  • "Confidence"
  • "Smooth stride"
  • "I am proud of my accomplishments"
  • "Calm Confidence"

The bottom line is that your mind can make or break you, in any situation.  Use some of the tips above to help control worries and self-doubts.  Practice positive self-talk daily!  In order for these suggestions to work, you must practice them regularly throughout your training.  Remember, these skills will not only help you with your training and racing, but with your every day life!  The positive person enjoys life!





Vicki is a distinguished athlete and international competitor, Vicki competed in the 1996 US Olympic Trials in the 10,000 run. She made her marathon debut at the 1999 Hong Kong Marathon, where she qualified for the 2000 US Olympic Marathon Trials. In 2001, she was invited to join the Fila Discovery USA training program, a program designed to develop American distance runners into elite marathon athletes able to compete with the best in the world. She has been a member of five USA national teams, including the 1993 World University Games and 1998 IAAF World Road Race Championship in Manaus, Brazil.