by Kevin Beck
Mike Platt, who now lives in the Boston area, became a 2:18 marathon runner in the 1990s following a solid career at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania — and he only took up running thanks to trying to rehab a wrestling injury that derailed his efforts in that sport. Over 15 years ago, he supplied me with some simple but well-put advice on how to mentally prepare yourself for a supreme effort using the power of your own mind and senses.
I think you’ll agree that he is on to something here.
One of the keys to performing well is eliminating anxiety. I have no fear of failure and no fear of success; both will happen. I do not get embarrassed. What happens happens and it matters little to nothing to me if others don’t approve.
I do not train to beat people. I do not go into races determined to beat a particular runner or runners. I do use competitors as barometers, but no malice is involved. This way, when someone passes me, I am not demoralized because of harboring ill will; my concentration is not broken by negative emotion.
I really love to race, and I remind myself of this. When I am in a highly competitive mode this is especially true. Often, during difficult segments of my training, I recall times I wasn’t racing and how during such periods I really seemed to be missing something; I recall race days and how I enjoy every minute of them.
I have performed well in other sports. I have very good recall of the feelings that I had – the smells, the tastes, the sounds, the noises – that surrounded very successful events. I spend a lot of time visualizing those feelings. I visualize the preparation that I had before good performances and I emulate this as best I can.
I make sure that I am training correctly. I have absolute confidence that proper training brings results. Sometimes the results don’t come on the exact day we expect they will, but they do come.
I try to remain relaxed. Bad workouts don’t bother me; they come and go. A new day is a new day and I wake up believing in breakthroughs.
I have a firm belief that the body is much like the brain. It’s said that each of us uses only a small percentage of our brainpower, and I believe that about our bodies. The trick is releasing this power.
I also believe in stories such as women lifting cars off their children. This can be done; I know it can.
I believe that some sick people can augment their own curative processes with the correct attitude; maybe by only a small percentage, but a small percentage can make a huge difference in this sport. With that in mind, I try to visualize physical recovery processes occurring.
I do not expect bad things to happen. Bad races are flukes, and good races are not – good races are supposed to happen.
I visualize the discomfort of racing and how I am able put it aside in very good races. When the discomfort hits in a race, I am therefore prepared to deal with it. I visualize a controlled but relaxed form of aggression. I practice this in certain workouts. This does not mean that I train like a crazed animal, refusing to acknowledge pain; instead, I try to remain relaxed yet maintain my intensity during workouts that are “up-tempo” or on off-days.
My goals are clear in my mind and I remind myself daily that each run contributes to these goals. In contrast, there have been times I have trained well but have had no goals other than to go to races and have a good time. This can sometimes be a problem at this stage of my running. I know that regaining the form I had as a twentysomething just will not happen, so I tend to race for fun and not necessarily for accomplishment. At times I had no goals or direction; what’s different now is that I have clear goals, a true desire for a particular result. I tilt the scales a little more toward accomplishment than toward fun. I still have fun – just not to the point of degrading my training or racing.
When I am serious, I make certain I do the little things that are important.
I visualize and verbalize; I have inner conversations with myself that put all of the above things together. It is almost a daily meditation or prayer. I am training right, I have a goal, I know that I have had breakthrough performances in the past and that I can still have “relative breakthroughs.” I am serious, I am having fun, and I savor the moments that I am training and racing. Very few people can experience what we as runners and racers experience: having a great workout, the excitement of race day from the minute we wake up until the minute the gun goes off. The thrill of be able to run and race like a deer; the ability to lift the car off of the baby. These are all things that I keep processing, almost as a form of self-hypnosis, on a daily basis.
I let these things fill me. Anything can happen, and I am ready.
Photo by Joe Roberts (Unsplash)