Mental toughness is an important part of training for a marathon, and perhaps one of the most valuable benefits from your weekly long runs. Even if you are injured or unable to make your long runs due to other commitments such as work or family, you can prepare your brain for the rigors of the marathon through visualization.
Start by finding a quiet space to sit comfortably. Visualize yourself in the race. Where do you imagine yourself? Which mile marker or aide station did you just pass? How are you feeling?
Then identify any negative thoughts you might have. Write these thoughts in a journal to help you find patterns of negative thoughts like “I always get tired here,” or “My calves always hurt when I run up hills.” Replace all of your negative thoughts/images with positive ones. By thinking, “I’m going to relax while I’m climbing the first half of the hill and then accelerate up the top” and visualizing yourself running the hill, you will have practiced that particular hill dozens of times prior to actual race day. While this may seem like a challenge at first, the mental practice of positive thinking is an incredibly powerful tool.
On the day of the race, harness any nervous energy by reminding yourself that you are prepared. You have created a “blueprint” of the race day with your visualization. Persevere through the tough patches in the race to meet your goal: of finishing, a new PR or smiling the whole way through.