7 Ways to Achieve Mental Toughness

Posted on Aug 7, 2019, by

By Jennifer Thompson, PaceSetters of the Fox Cities representative

It is true that every runner has a story. The stories are often told on the trails or roads that we trek along. My story began six years ago. I never was a runner; in fact, I would do anything to find a way to get out of running. My life changed after a devastating car accident that left me with new hardware in my hip and the inability to walk for 12 weeks, after which time it took me an additional 8 weeks to learn to walk again. In one of the final meetings with my doctor we were reviewing my restrictions and the doctor said, “Well you will never be able to run a marathon again!” My response to him was, “Don’t worry, I never ran one before!”

Of course, my story didn’t end there. I trained for my first half-marathon in 2015 with the PaceSetters training runs. From half-marathons to full-marathons to 50-mile races and now training for my first 100-mile race; running has brought incredible friends with instant connections into my life. Many of these instant connections have come from the training runs. For the past three years it has been my pleasure to give back and be the training run coordinator for the Community First Fox Cities Marathon presented by Miron Construction. I have taken the knowledge that I’ve learned about shoes, hydration and recovery to help better the training for other runners. It is my hope that by bringing this information to the training runs it will help others be more successful crossing the finish line.

A topic that we often overlook in all of this training is MENTAL TOUGHNESS. Mental toughness is what marathoners are made of. Physically our bodies can handle the distance. Mentally we can fall apart quickly. Whether you are conditioning yourself for your first marathon or your 60th, a marathon can be a mental battle as much as a physical one. Here are a few tips that I use to win the mental fight.

  1. Reign in your inner voice – Your inner voice determines your approach to everything. It is completely normal to have thoughts in your head such as: “I hope you make it. Don’t hit the wall. You are too slow…” You have to consciously switch to using positive self-talk and enjoying the day.
  2. Imagine the FINISH – There is nothing more rewarding than crossing the finish line. Visualizing the finish is so helpful to getting your head communicating with your body. When we imagine something, our neurons get fired up and actually experience it.
  3. Find your routine and build a support network – Routines are so helpful in getting you in to the right mind frame on race day. The training runs provided by PaceSetters of the Fox Cities help you get into these routines. The people you are training with each week will be at the start line in September. As runs increase in miles it is important to find the ritual that works for you to get through longer distances. You can’t wait until race day; you have to start this process while you are training to set your routine. The support of those running with you each week are there to support you when the going gets tough. Running is easier to do when you find your tribe.
  4. Set small goals – Instead of saying “I still have 14 miles to go!” think of smaller milestones such as “only another six blocks to the half-way point.” The best way to get to the finish is to set small goals. Focus on each moment and the process rather than the outcome. One step at a time, one breath at a time.
  5. Look up and look around – ALWAYS – Most runners look at the ground when they are running. I have found that I feel an increased and intense amount of pain when I am looking down. Looking up allows me to enjoy the people and the supporters on the sidelines cheering us on. Unbelievably, the pain starts to subside.
  6. This run is not the end goal – A lot of runners will ask what your next event is just after crossing the finish line. Remember all the training that you did is not just for one event. By doing this you give each run meaning even if not every run is your best.
  7. Always remember what you have achieved – It is true not everyone at the start line will finish the race. Injury or other health reasons can pull you out of a race, but even if that happens to you, continue to focus on what you have achieved. If you look at all the things that could possibly go wrong, your mind will mentally rehearse the mistakes instead of the accomplishments. Focus your mind on finding a solution.

Life isn’t about winning; it’s about getting others across the finish line. As you increase in mileage, it is important to train your mind to become as mentally tough as you are physically. There are many weeks left to come and train with the PaceSetters of the Fox Cities before Marathon weekend! Look for the PaceSetters Training Runs on Facebook to join our tribe.

Leave a Comment