Envisioning Success On a Long Run

Contributed by Michele Gonzalez,  wife, mother, ultrarunner, and FitFluential Ambassador. A former Captain in the US Army, she is now a stay at home mom who is currently training for a sub 3:10 marathon and first Ironman (NYC – Aug 2012). Her blog, NYCrunningmama, focuses on her training and races, as well as pregnancy and motherhood. 

always do my long runs outside.  I have never been a fan of logging countless boring miles on the treadmill.  That is, until yesterday.
I try to minimize my time away from my son and husband as best as I can (especially on the weekends) – I’ll run early in the morning before they wake up or during one of my son’s naps.
I had a dilemma yesterday – there were two things I really wanted to do –  watch the Olympic Marathon Trials (aired from 3-5pm) and run my scheduled 16 miles. Instead of running for two hours in the morning and then spending another two hours in the afternoon watching the Olympics, I decided to combine the two.  I hopped on the treadmill  to run my scheduled 16 miles while watching the Olympics.  (I guess I have gotten better with time management!)
After reading some inspiring blogs this week (Jessica and Dorothy) about paces on long runs (hitting MP or faster the last few miles), I decided I wanted to give it a try (I usually only pick up the pace the last mile). My goal for the day was 7:45 through 13 and then 7:18 average over the last three.
While I target a 7:45 pace for my long runs, I will typically adjust that pace +/- 15 seconds after completing a few miles each long run.  Why?
My “steady” pace is different each long run.  
Some weeks I feel great – other weeks it’s a struggle to run sub-8.  The steady pace seems to change due to a variety of factors – amount of sleep I’ve been getting, workouts, weekly mileage.
Pushing myself too hard on a long run could result in being exhausted, having to take time off, or injuring myself.  Even though I want to hit that goal pace each time I do a long run, I ultimately let my body dictate the pace.
By mile 2.5 yesterday, I was completely warmed up and running 7:35 and felt that I had found my “steady” pace for the run. It was comfortable, I wasn’t out of breath, and I felt I could maintain that pace for a considerable amount of time. So my new goal for the run was 7:35. 
Words cannot describe how motivating and inspiring it was to run while watching the country’s best fly along the course in Houston.  I paid almost no attention to my running – my eyes were glued to the TV and the exciting races that were being run.
Below are my splits:
  • Mile 1: 8:12
  • Mile 2: 7:47
  • Mile 3: 7:37
  • Mile 4: 7:35
  • Mile 5: 7:35
  • Mile 6: 7:31
  • Mile 7: 7:28
  • Mile 8: 7:26
  • Mile 9: 7:31
  • Mile 10: 7:38
  • Mile 11: 7:33
  • Mile 12: 7:32
  • Mile 13: 7:29
  • Mile 14: 7:20
  • Mile 15: 7:08
  • Mile 16: 6:45
   Total distance: 16 miles
   Total time: 2:00:07

   Average Pace: 7:30

   Pace over last 3 miles: 7:04
Mile 14 was hard.
Mile 15 was even harder.
I was out of breath.  My lungs were burning.  My legs were hurting.  I wanted to stop multiple times.

Source: http://www.brushnewstribune.com/ci_19742283
It was at this point that Flanagan, Davila, and Goucher were approaching the finish line.  I started envisioning myself on the course.  I was running the trials and vying for a spot on the Olympic Team.  I was alongside them, running as hard and fast as I could.
I thought about how exciting and exhilarating it must have been for those three women – the new faces of American distance running.  And how redeeming to know that the hard work, sweat, and pain was paying off.  I felt the excitement, the exhilaration, and welcomed the pain I was experiencing.
During those few miles, I was an elite runner. I was on TV. I saw the finish line and heard the crowd cheering. I felt like I could fly.
And I was.
I was gradually increasing the speed of my last mile (average 6:45 pace) and was running sub 6:20 the last 1/4 mile.
I was out of breath, but I was smiling and loving every moment.
There are times I don’t win the mental battle I have with myself on long runs.  But I’m happy to say that by envisioning success and victory, I won the battle yesterday.
Have you used imagery on your long runs?  Do you picture anything specific? Finishing your first marathon? Running a PR? Qualifying for Boston? 
Congratulations to all the runners who competed in the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials!  Regardless of what place they finished yesterday, it is an amazing accomplishment to even qualify for the Marathon Trials!  Looking forward to cheering the winners on at London this summer!!

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