Mental training: is it more important than physical?

My tongue is dry. My brain is buzzing. My stomach, hollow; my shoulders, tense. It’s less than 24 hours until I’ll take the baton in my first 6.2-mile leg of the Hood-to-Coast relay, only 14 hours until I’ll hit the road with five other mamas, headed to the starting gun at Timberline Lodge.


Am I ready? Physically, I think I am. I haven’t been running the distance I would have liked — it’s been closer to 12 miles a week than my goal of 20+ — but my speed is exactly where I want it to be. I ran in Central Park on Friday and achieved my goal pace of ~8-minute miles with ease. But mentally. Ahh, mentally is another story.

I’m freakin’ terrified.

The worst of it is, I shouldn’t be. I’m a virtual paragon of positive thinking.

Not only have I had the considerable preparation of 15-some years of athletics, much of it highly focused on visualization, but also the biggest mental whammy in the book: birth. I managed days of labor and two hours of pushing, with my second son, entirely without pain medication (I ended up with a c-section, a mind f#$% of its own particular sort, but that’s another story). I’ve taken Psych-K classes and hour upon hour of yoga. I’ve written, and conducted, meditations on physical events of every kind.

Now, it’s 14 hours until my race begins, and I know I have to pack all my mental training into this next half-day.

I firmly believe mental training is just as, if not more, important than physical training, and I’m delving into it with every bit of my energy. How would you mentally prepare for such an unusual event?

Author by Sarah Gilbert