When I look at the gal smiling in this photo from that fateful day six months ago, my heart breaks a little. Smiling on the outside but in shambles on the inside.
Last year I had set a big goal for myself, I wanted to run a 3:15 marathon in the fall. I focused all my physical works on progressing towards this goal. Physically I became an animal racking up more miles at quicker paces then ever before. Mentally I was a hot mess. I let the goal I set for myself to begin to haunt me and hang over me with doubts filling my mind about my abilities. I was in a state of disbelief with myself and felt that even though I set this goal by myself for myself that I was going to fall short and was not amazing enough to pull this off. It was self-sabotage. On race morning I had an emotional breakdown at the starting line and could not pull myself together, and it was all down hill from there. I did not meet my goal and barely made it through the finish.
During all the sweat filled miles I was logging, I forgot one very important part of my training...the mental preparations. Easily forgotten, but a necessary ingredient for success at anything. I would be a liar if I said that I am not nervous to line up behind that line on Sunday, because I am. But this time around I am bringing something with me to the start that I didn't have last October, my composure and a sense of self worth. Keeping oneself mentally together on race morning is a challenge for even the greatest runners and different things work for different people. Quite honestly I do not know what works best for me because I'm a "head case" most of the time, so I have been trying a few different things lately with an optimistic heart.
Visualization. Getting to know the course is a great way to practice how you want to feel on race day. The start and finish are particularly important for me because those tend to be the "make it or break it moments" in my running world. Knowing where the aid stations are, elevation, and tight turns are things that can create anxiety for runners with anticipation. I have been visualizing myself on particular parts of the course and telling myself how I want to feel for this race with hopes that come race morning my mind will be filled with ease about where my legs are leading me.
Mantras. Mantras are a powerful thing. Back a few months ago I blogged about my thoughts on them, and have recently been finding them rather powerful. Telling myself that I am capable of my goal pace and that my legs will let me fly through the streets of Chicago on Sunday has strengthened me in my workouts.
Confidence. It is easy for me to forget on race morning about all the miles and hard work that I had put into my training. With all of the excitement stirring up on race morning I can get very distracted and forget that I am strong and that I have the power to do great things. Believing in myself and appreciating that I set my own goals because of a desire to challenge myself has become a constant reminder for me lately.
Reminders of why I run. I run because I like to and because it is fun, which I know sounds weird to some people but for me it is a pleasant past time. There is no need to be a crazed maniac because this is something I do for enjoyment. Stress is not allowed in fun situations, therefore racing is to be stress-free (this is difficult for me to remember for some crazy reason).
Not every race can be amazing and I understand that, but I want to be able to walk away from the finish line feeling like I gave my best effort and ran my little legs out.