Positive Visualization in Ultrarunning
Updated: Aug 7, 2020
Ha! Yes, Positive Visualization or the technique of visualization (visualisation). Makes a huge difference miles into an ultra (which I mean ultramarathon or sometimes spelled as ultra marathon), when your mind starts to slip, or even into a long trail run during training. You may already be having some physical pain, whether chaffing, sore or blistered feet, tired legs, the list goes on... So being able to focus and visualize success can make a huge difference when these road blocks (sometimes literal trail blocks, ha!) crop up during training and especially in a race.
I'm no clinical professional, so here is what as expert in the field says at a more general level:
The Power of Positive Visualization by Dr. Eric Perry: https://makeitultrapsychology.wordpress.com/2020/04/24/the-power-of-positive-visualization/
Wow, who in their right mind would run an ultra with that sort of description!
Well, lots of people actually. Granted, not compared to the world's total population but at least in the circles I run in - pun intended, ha! ;) Those numbers are also on the rise:
So more people getting into it and more people looking for info on how to do it?
Exactly. So no better time to help people do it in a smart manner and learn from those that have been there before and, in some cases, learned the hard way.
How does this apply to ultrarunning (ultra running)?
Positive Visualization (athletes visualization, create visualization, or goal visualization) - Visualizing successful completion of your race (or training run), even if you've never done the course or run before.
Hopefully you've done some homework to know the course layout, elevation changes, maybe read feedback or a blog, and/or watched videos on it. If not or have no idea, then that's okay too, ha! Just make it up for this exercise and imagine what you might expect.
So again, at least you have some knowledge to work with for this exercise.
I say positive in the sense:
- You can and likely will have negative thoughts during a race or training run.
- Good to think through possible negative scenarios in order to be prepared for those moments and have tools to get your mind back to a positive mindset.
- Positive in the sense of successful completion of your race or training run.
First, watch the above video, it'll walk you through a visualization exercise (or guided imagery), from race start, through your race, to the finish line. This is similar to what my swim coach had us do this visualization technique back in my competitive swimming days leading up to a big race. It's also something I still do before all races and a lot of long runs, or at least a modified version where I still consciously walk trough the race/run (not always lying down, eyes closed, etc.).
The following is an outline of the steps from the video:
Find a comfortable place to sit or lay down.
Dim the lights if you want.
Close your eyes.
Runners to the starting area.
Starting in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - Gooo! And we're off!
What's that first big obstacle?
Do you see that hill, mountain, ravine coming up?
What's after that?
Now, doesn't have to be for the whole time, but continue to walk your mind through the rest of race.
[Now I'll give you some time to visualize the rest of the race.]
Are you coming to the finish?
Do you see the finish line, the sign, the person giving out high 5's, family and friends that have come to support and cheer you on?
And you're across!
Congrats! You've just finished your first ultra marathon!
How does it feel?
Now, take note of that feeling.
Save it for the next time anxiety or worry starts to enter your mind.
Play back this visualization in your mind.
You've already done the work once.
Just hit play on it and let you mind walk through it again.
Can't quite remember it. No worries. Back up the above video and repeat it, or walk yourself through the above steps again.
Happy Running! ✌🏻😊