Dreaming Big – The Mental Training for a Marathon

With the races of 2013 now behind me, what awaits is my first full marathon in January. In preparation for this full marathon, I’m on a training plan designed by Jeff Galloway (with a few little alterations by myself to accommodate some of my races). So, I know the physical preparation I still need to finish before leaving for Walt Disney World for the marathon. I’ve booked my flight to Orlando and arranged for where I will be staying for marathon weekend. I’ve got a blueprint for what I will be doing while I’m at Walt Disney World. However, running a marathon is not only physically taxing, but mentally draining as well.

I know that I’ve shared this video before. It’s inspirational. Isn’t it? It makes you want to sign up for a marathon and just go. I mean, the last line is “When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow, no matter how fast, it will change your life forever.” Who doesn’t want that life changing moment? What happens along the way? Something more like this video…

Am I right? Oh the thoughts that go through our minds as we run those long distances. Even on the good days, I can go through the range of emotions in this video if I have a long enough run. Even while setting that new half marathon PR a little over a week ago, I had moments where I wondered if that would happen. This is why I have felt like the mental training matters so much.

It all starts with a dream…to finish 26.2 miles. One of the bloggers I read is Michael Hyatt. In a podcast, he outlined the Seven Steps of Thinking Bigger. Here are those steps with the applications I’ve taken from them on my journey towards 26.2…


1. Imagine the possibilities. You have to give yourself permission to dream. Nobody else is going to do this. You have to give yourself permission to dream, to push the envelope, to expand the horizons, to think bigger than you’ve ever thought before.

 Step 1 – After finishing the Tinker Bell Half Marathon and signing up for the Disneyland Half Marathon, I began reading blogs of fellow runDisney enthusiasts. The first blogs that put the dream of a marathon in my head were from…

After reading these blogs, I also found Spirit of the Marathon on Netflix. Let me tell you, by the end of that movie, I was in full on dream mode. My heart was racing as I started thinking that I might actually be able to do one of these things. Me, a one half marathon finisher, was dreaming of running in a full 26.2 mile race. The thing I knew for certain…it HAD to be at Walt Disney World. I may never do another full marathon. So, if I’m going to do only one, this is the one for me.

 2. Write down your dream. This is the act that transforms a dream into a goal. Amazing things begin to happen when you commit something to writing. I don’t fully understand how this works, but I’ve experienced it firsthand again and again.


Step 2 – I wrote that dream in a blog post after signing up for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. It was an exciting day for sure. I had spent weeks agonizing over whether or not it would be even possible to dream this big. I had explored the logistics of getting there…cost of the trip to Disney World, Training Schedule, etc. As I talked it over with my wife, it crystallized that I had to do this in 2014. Waiting a year was not an option in my mind. If I waited, it probably wouldn’t happen.

 3. Connect with what is at stake. This is your rationale. Unfortunately, it’s a crucial step that people often forget, and frankly, it’s one that I didn’t use for years. I just didn’t think about it. But it’s really important, especially when you encounter setbacks.

 Before you can find your way, you have to discover your why. You’ve just got to ask yourself why this goal is important to you. Jot it down in a series of bullets. Why is this goal important to you? What will achieving it make possible? What is at stake if you don’t accomplish it? What will you lose? Your rationale provides the intellectual and the emotional power to keep going when the path becomes difficult, which it will.

 Step 3 – Why is this important? There are lots of reasons. First, I’m doing this to prove that I can. I know that a lot of people set out to do a marathon for that very reason and it is true of me as well. Secondly, since around 1 percent of the population will ever finish a marathon, it gives me the opportunity to do something only a few will ever complete. Sometimes, I see myself as a very average person with limited resources to step out from the mediocrity. In finishing a marathon, I will always have that reminder that I can do something really special that few have ever done. In doing so, I’m really looking to validate this belief that I can be more than I am today. As the quote from Spirit of the Marathon says, “finishing a marathon…will change you forever.”

 4. Outline what would have to be true. This is something I didn’t used to do either, but this is a critical step in the process. Rather than merely asking how you get from where you are to where you want to go, which would be strategy, the “how,” I like asking what would have to be true for my dream to become a reality.


Step 4 – This step is a tricky one. After all, finding the training plan and taking care of the logistics solve the strategy part. What would have to be true for my dream to become a reality? I can’t say I have the answer to this at the moment. However, what I’ve got so far is that I would have to finish the training, especially the long runs, and find myself injury free come race time.

 5. Decide what you can do to affect the outcome. I know that not everything is under your control, that sometimes the best you can hope for is influence, but you have a lot more control than what you think.

This is where you transition from the big picture to the daily actions, and this is where people often get derailed. Maybe they can thing big, maybe they can write down the goal, but when it comes to execution, somehow they get off the track.

Ready to start my 11 mile run!
Ready to start my 11 mile run!

Step 5 – What I can do to affect the outcome is to get out and run as my training plan dictates. I have to do my best to keep the run/walk intervals I’ve decided on. On the longer runs, if I start to lose my mental focus, I need to be okay with altering the intervals and keep reminding myself that there is always a second, third, fourth, etc. wind that will carry me through. Since my training is built on incremental changes on the weekend long runs, I need to focus on the fact that I completed the previous one and the new distance is not much longer than the previous one. One thing I don’t have control over in my training runs are the amount of stop lights that will keep me still and slow down my overall finish time. As long as I hold to my intervals, the finish time won’t be super important. As long as I run well on the run intervals, my finish time won’t be too much slower than it would have been if not for the lights.

 6. Determine when this will happen. Someone once said a goal is simply a dream with a deadline. I think that’s exactly right. A deadline is one way to make the dream more concrete, which is exactly what thinking big is about. Thinking big also involves deadlines. It’s not just dreaming and hoping, but it’s actually committing yourself to a deadline. That creates a sense of urgency that will motivate you to take action.

 Step 6 – January 12, 2014 at Walt Disney World

 7. Review your goals daily. Again, going back to when I was writing my first book. I had specific goals about the book that I reviewed every single day. I have a list of ten goals for this year, for 2012, that I’m reviewing every single day. The reason I want to do this is because I want to laser focus on the dream. I want to laser focus on the goal. I want to make it possible, and I want to accomplish it, so I focus on what I need to do today to move myself toward that goal.

 Writing this blog helps keep me focused. Reading the blogs of others who are pursuing similar goals also helps keep my running goal and dream in front of me.


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