Marathon mantra(s)

If all goes as planned, I’ll be running a marathon when this post goes out. This will be the first one. While training, I tried to keep in mind a few things to maintain the best running form possible. I experimented with a few running chants, but eventually boiled it down to seven items of three syllables each. So if you passed me while I was running, I was often the crazy guy mumbling to myself.

When I’m running, I often think about things I’m trying to improve on in my life or problems I’m trying to solve, so inevitably these items became intertwined with those thoughts.

So without further ado, here are the seven things I mutter to myself while running.

1. Head held high

This is basically a reminder to “run tall.” The best advice I’ve ever heard on this is to imagine your head is being gently pulled into the air by a balloon on a rope that is attached to the top of your head. This has also become a reminder to take pride in the things I do, and to search out things to do that I can take pride in.

2. Open heart

I borrowed this from yoga (specifically from Rodney Yee’s Yoga Conditioning for Athletes. I have a problem when I run long distances with my right shoulder getting very tight, sometimes painfully so. This is a reminder to run with my shoulders back and open up my chest. It also serves to remind me to take an open approach to the world and people, to listen more than I talk.

3. Steady breath

I tended to take shallow breaths when running. After reading the running on air breathing technique I focused on a 4-3 (4 steps breathing in, 3 steps breathing out) breathing pattern. When I’m really pushing it, I’ll use a 3-2 pattern. This has helped to keep my breath steady. I also tend take shallow breaths when I’m upset about something, so this has allowed me to identify when I get upset before I get too upset. It’s an incredibly useful skill.

4. Keep it up

I spent some time trying to raise my cadence, running to a click track as I gradually increased the number of steps I took each minute. I no longer use the click tracks, mostly because (=I don’t enjoy running with headphones. This one also serves to remind me to keep focused on a task until it’s done. I’ve recently been using the Pomodoro technique to help with this.

5. Lean forward

This one is about leaning forward slightly with my whole body. Leaning forward like this helps to ensure my feet are landing under my center of gravity rather than in front of me. It’s also about keeping the forward momentum, whether of a run or of a project that I’ve taken on.

6. Keep smiling

This applies when things get difficult, but also applies when things are going well. It’s taken me a while to understand the impact has on other people. I love Hal Higdon’s advice on smiling when running:

The only question is, will you be able to run today’s workout with a smile on your face, because you’re well trained. Hopefully, the answer to that question will be, “yes!” Non-runners sometimes claim that they never see runners smiling and use that as an excuse not to do it. It’s a lame alibi, but make them liars. Smile at everybody you see today. 🙂

7. And relax

This one is also about avoiding the shoulder tension and pain. It’s a big issues, so I need two reminders. but it’s a reminder that my runs–and most everything else in my life–go more smoothly when I can stay relaxed instead of tensing up.

That’s it. The seven prompts I use to keep my runs on track. Hopefully, they’ll also help me run, complete and enjoy the Kielder Marathon.