Alongside all the hard work put into training and sessions, visualisation and self-belief play a huge part whilst preparing for a race. I have been running now for the past 4 years and have only just tapped into these two super ingredients which are vital to any race day success since the start of this year.

Just to put into context, everyone’s definition of race day success is different and unique. People always thought because of my physique, I should be galloping gracefully like an elite runner with no problems, but far from it, goes to show looks can be deceiving and it’s not all about the physical appearance, the mind in it is just as important.

What kick started this change in mindset? Last year, I had a chat during XC with a club mate of mine that was surprised that I had not hit certain running goals I set 2 years back, again focusing on the physical, but they said something else, they felt I was holding myself back and those two words slipped out during the conversation, they said to me “you have to visualize doing it and believe you can do it”. Now I have heard those words before but this time for some reason they stuck with me. So, I began to delve into visualisation/self-belief and really study what elite/top athletes do, and I am in no way comparing myself to an elite athlete but its good to always learn from those who excel in areas we may struggle. I also spent some time tapping into the wisdom pool of some of the ASICS FrontRunner team, their mantras and how they visualized things even prior to joining the team.

Let’s start with definitions, what is visualisation? It’s a way to focus and guide our imagination to create a mental image of a future event and in the process harness the power of your brain to unlock your full potential. In other words, connecting your mind to your body. Now where does that ring a bell, Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, a sound mind in a sound body, certainly a connection there.

And then we look at self-belief, a person’s belief in their ability to complete tasks and to achieve their goals. Put those two together alongside hard work put in training/sessions, they could be catalyst in future races and even outside of running.

So, I set to work at the start of the year, training hard but smarter as well with a new conviction with each passing session, including visualisation as part of sessions, picturing race days, the route, every twist and turn, weather conditions and what I would do if they didn’t go to plan, all which further fuelled my self-belief.

I realised this year the mental side of training is just as crucial as the physical side and not one to be taken lightly, it took me 4 years to seriously look at this, goes to show you we are on different stages of our journeys, and this is a continuous journey of learning. I can certainly say it has had a positive impact on my running this year. So far, I have seen results in terms of finally hitting that elusive sub 20min 5k and a massive improvement in my road half marathon times running both Newport and Cardiff Half Marathon under 90mins, something I never could have imagined.

Visualisation has helped with me to;

  1. Reduce my performance anxiety
  2. Increase my self-belief, my confidence levels have most certainly been boosted this year
  3. Increased my motivation to achieve even more.

But it’s not just visualising beforehand, during the race is very crucial as well. We say it a lot, easier said than done I know, but it does helps to go to a happy place as well when the going gets tough, our minds tend to go to the deepest, darkest places first when we are at our lowest but even in that moment it’s important to focus on the many personal positive lights in our lives.

      A few things other things I visualize about, my lovely wife and kids smiling waiting at the finish line with that proud look on their face no matter what the result.

      The fire lord pulling in front of me when my legs start to fail me.

      My friends and teammates who support, inspire & spore me on in, and last but certainly not least the cake or jam donut at the end, they all play an important role.

      Will it always be the result I am after at the end of races, probably not, but I am ok with that. I am more excited to see where this newfound confidence takes me in my running journey.

      So go for it, don’t be afraid to visualise or even dream big, allow yourself to and see what magic you can make happen. And most importantly, dial down your inner critic, build yourself up and believe in you.
      written by

      Inein Garrick

      Safety Officer from Cardiff

      Age group: 35 - 39
      Club: Lliswerry Runners

      10k ultra marathon ultra trail trail marathon half marathon