Head Games…(Lori Muhr)

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

The marathon is very mental.  In fact, running in general employs great mental strength, especially in the later miles of a long run.  Your mental fortitude can make or break your marathon experience, and it can also improve your training experience.  What do you think about to get through the tough miles of a run?  The following is a list of ‘thoughts’ to help keep the mind occupied, and, most importantly, positive- after all, where the mind goes, the body will follow…

1. Smile– When you feel good you smile… so, when you smile, you’ll feel good.:-)
2. Sing– Think of favorite songs and sing the lyrics (in your head).  Make up new lyrics or a limerick.
3. Mantra– Repeat a positive sentence or phrase that is empowering (Hills make me stronger, Run smooth, Shorter quicker steps, I’m tough, Run in the moment, Keep it together, etc.)
4. Think Math– Compute the miles of different sections of your run. For example, I break up one of my runs into sections that include a 1.4 mile out and back, a .8 mile neighborhood loop (done 1-3 times depending on time and distance I need) and a 9.5 mile loop.  I often add and re-add these parts in different orders (and even get the same total!:-). 
                    -Calculate how many miles left, and how many miles done? 
                    -In the marathon, I try not to think about miles until I hit the 6.2 mile mark, then I tell myself I am just heading out for a 20 mile run (which I’ve done before and I know I can do it.).  Then when I hit various mile markers after that, I think similarly (at mile 10, I think of going out fresh for a 16.2 mile run, etc.
                    -Compute ages of people, or determine the year of their birth from their age. 
                    -Project your finish time based on your pace and figure what it would be at different paces. 
Math definitely occupies the mind!
5. Imagine running your courses–  When I have 5 miles left, I imagine running my usual 5 mile course at home.
6. Remember the reason–  You committed to running the marathon for a cause and you are making a difference. You WILL finish!
What do you think about during your runs?

  1. terri says:

    Hi Lori:
    Great Post! I think smiling is great. It’s funny to see people’s reactions when you smile at them or nod and say hi as you run past them. Some people are surprised and some smile right back. It makes me smile either way.
    I think about how great it feels to run, how I “get” to run, and feel blessed each mile I am running in the moment. It helps me concentrate and stay focused and present. I may recite the mantras you mentioned, and yes definitely sing songs.
    I may say a prayer at each mile, and or think of someone I know that is dealing with a difficult situation in their lives.
    I will say wow- I have already hit mile 5 or 10 etc!
    Math is great- I have definitely thought about numbers, and even money when I run.:) I also think about people who have made positive comments about my running and why I run, that always makes me smile.
    Terri Lima-Rosen

  2. Hi Terri,

    Thanks for your reply. Your “running thoughts” are great, no wonder you always have such a great attitude about running, and life. I agree that it’s always helpful to remember how fortunate you are to be able to run and to think of those who cannot.

    Thank you for always being so supportive of Rick’s blog!:-)


  3. Paula says:

    Hi Lori, Great post. I do my best praying and problem solving on my long runs. Definately thinking of the alternative helps. I have a .7 hill at the end of my runs just before I make the turn home. I use to keep my head down the whole way for years until I found out a girl my age on that street had a stroke that confined her to a wheel chair. When I hit that land mark I always say one for Susie and thank God for allowing me the opportunuity to run a marathon to help someone that needs it. This blog offers great support to our jorney towards race day Thank You and Coach Rick big time!

    • Hello Paula,

      Thanks for sharing. You ROCK… running a marathon for someone in need is the best reason to run a marathon! And, I agree, long runs are great for problem solving. Keep up your great efforts in your training, it’s been a challenging season but the challenges will only make you stronger.


  4. Cheryl Reed says:

    Hi Rick,
    I have used many tricks to get through long runs, but I learned a new level of “mental strength” this past Saturday as I ran 15 miles on the treadmill! (I’m not entirely sure if it was a sign of mental strength or insanity:) On that note, however, I was wondering if you could address one of my fears of the mental aspect of running Boston? That would be the idea of running without my Ipod! I have never trained a really long run without it, and my last marathon was so small (and actually kind of boring) that I wore it during the marathon. I know that not only are they not allowed for Boston, but everyone tells me that you don’t want it, because the crowd is so amazing. I’m still scared, however, to not have it as a distraction. For me, my love of music and running have been integral! Really would love your insight and/or advice about this.

  5. Hello Cheryl,

    Breaking the habit of running with your Ipod may be easier than you think. If you focus on the things that Lori mentioned in her post, along with your breathing and form, you will be so occupied and engaged with your running that you won’t even miss the music. I think music is a distraction that diminishes your focus on extremely important aspects of your running.

    The only exeption I would concede would be the last few miles of a marathon where you need a heavy dose of inspiration to get to the finish line. However, I would argue that no form of music is sweeter than the sound of the spectators encouraging you to the finish line in Boston!

    Your Coach,


  6. Lori says:

    Hi Cheryl,

    Rick is right, the Boston Marathon is an event in itself, and you are working so hard to be prepared for it. If you focus on the fact that you are actually running “The Boston Marathon”, you won’t want to be distracted by anything. You’ll want to to take in all the sights and sounds of the day. You can listen to your music beforehand to get you psyched up and motivated (not that you’ll need it), but when the race is on, you’ll want to be on, too. Interact with the spectators and cheer on runners as you pass them :-), that will be both distracting and motivating.


    • Cheryl Reed says:

      Thanks Lori and Rick, that helps. Do you think that I should train my long runs without it? (I dread that more than not using it during the marathon:)

      Btw, sorry Lori. I didn’t notice that the initial post was by you until after I replied. It is such helpful advice!

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