Throughout the last four years that I have been training for half and full marathons I have always strongly believed that long distance running is 85% mental. How I am feeling mentally and the thoughts that I have affect my running so much. Sometimes I have positive thoughts that give me energy and power me through my runs. However, sometimes these thoughts are negative and drain all my strength, making me feel weak, defeated, and disappointed.
I have been learning to try to control these thoughts to help keep my mental state positive. It is still a work in progress, but one of the ways I do this is through mantras. A mantra is a motivating and inspirational word or a phrase that you repeat to yourself. It is important to choose a mantra that you can connect with, that makes you feel strong and keeps you focused. I have had many mantras and I try to pick a new one with each big race that I train for. I use the mantras during training and then on race day. They have helped me SO MUCH and gotten me through some really tough times.
Here are some of the mantras I have used in the past:
Marathon #1: The Philadelphia Marathon – “Don’t stop.” And I didn’t stop once! I did run veryyyyy slowly though at the end.
Marathon #2: The New Jersey Marathon – “Just keep running, just keep running.” Like “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo. It was actually very fitting because I felt like I was underwater. It rained the entire time!
Marathon #3: The Marine Corps Marathon – “Break down the brick walls.” I borrowed this from a book I read during training, The Last Lecture– an amazing book that everyone should read. The author Randy Pausch was suffering from cancer and has since passed away, but he wrote- ‘The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.’ Very powerful! I thought of this as I held onto my friend Ashley’s hand for dear life at the end of this race!
Marathon #4: The Austin Marathon – “Smile!” This race was just for fun when I went to visit a friend in Austin, and my training was kind of non-existent. I didn’t even wear a watch! It felt amazing.
Marathon #5: The New York City Marathon – “I’m a machine.” I actually wrote MACHINE on my shirt and people yelled it out to me during the race. It was awesome!
Marathon #6: The Country Music Marathon – “You are stronger than you think.” This actually ended up being a VERY necessary mantra- read the recap to find out why.
This brings me to Marathon #7 (which I will be running in 9 days!). My mantra word this time around has been CONTROL. I have run – literally and figuratively – into many, many issues during past races because I made the mistake of letting something get out of my control (usually my pace by going out too fast!) Saying “control” to myself as I run helps me to remember to control what I can– my breathing, my pace, my attitude, my nutrition and water intake, and my running form, to name a few. It also reminds to me not to worry about the things that are out of my control, like weather, hills, other people, and other unexpected things that come up during the race. I know that I can’t control these things, but I can control the way that I react when I am faced with them.
I have practiced this mantra throughout my entire training plan and it has transformed the way I feel during and after my long and short runs. When I focus on what I am able to control while I’m running I feel strong and like nothing negative can touch or affect me. After I finish my run I feel proud, knowing that I truly did the best that I could that day. I am hoping I finish my marathon with the same mentality as that.
Have you ever used a mantra before? What was yours? Did it help you?