The first priority is to store creative energy. As discussed in post 5, running requires mental energy; if this energy has been exhausted in other pursuits, there will be insufficient energy remaining to compete the race successfully. I discovered this as a surgical intern when working over 100 hours a week. In a standard marathon after 30 km, for the first and only time I lacked the mental energy to pull me through the wall.
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Now I do not race marathons when I am working too hard. Should I wish to race during such times, the race must be run at a gentle, sociable pace with absolutely no concern for my finishing time.
There are at least three ways by which runners harness their creative energies prior to a race. First, they reduce their training loads. This not only allows the body time to recover but stores the mental energy normally used during training. Second, they begin to sleep more, to relax, and to avoid any extraneous stresses, particularly at work. Acute sleep deprivation impairs performance during prolonged exercise (B. J. Martin, 1981) and is therefore to be avoided. Interestingly, resistance to this effect differs markedly between individuals (B. J. Martin, 1981). Third, runners preparing for a race avoid any new creative activities at work.
Run the Race in Your Mind (Mentally Rehearse). The next important mental strategy is to run the race in your mind beforehand. The importance of setting realistic goals and then “segmenting” the distance into manageable proportions is described in post 7. Clearly these skills are not developed overnight; you will need many years of practice and many races to properly develop this ability.
After you have established realistic goals along the lines set forth earlier in this post, your task is to mentally break up the race into small segments and to imagine yourself running each of these sections in turn, finishing the sections in the times (see Exercises 9.3) that you have set for yourself.
I have found that the 10-km race must be segmented into single kilometers; this race is really too short to require additional tactics. The standard marathon breaks up into two 16-km races with a final 10-km stretch tacked on the end. Thus, when preparing to race the standard marathon I set myself time goals for the 16- and 32-km markers. In this way I never concentrate on a goal more than 16 km away. To ensure that everything is going according to plan during the race, I might check my pace over various individual kilometers along the route. The positive reinforcement engendered by knowing that you have run another kilometer in the correct time has a remarkable psychological effect.
In mental practice for the marathon I visualize the times I have set for myself. Then, for the last 10 km of the actual race I run from each kilometer marker to.