• Jakob Irwin

The Power of Imagination

I ran a 17 mile run yesterday. I took off from my house and I ran 10 miles out to the boat launch area for the University of Albany Rowing Team. I took about a 3 minute break at this point to sip down some water and step out of the rain for a moment, then I ran 7 miles back.

Now if you are punching the numbers you are likely thinking that this doesn't add up. 10 miles out, 7 miles back...Where did the other 3 miles go? Well...I walked them.

Truth is, this is something I do often on my long run days and even on my middle distance or tempo run days. Of course there is the obvious physical benefits of doing this in that I cool down my muscles and keep them from tightening up after the run. However this is not the main focus of my walk home. I like to stop my run 1-3 miles before my starting point so that I can use that time to think about whatever race I have coming up.

I often go in to a sort of daydream where I envision my race from start to finish. Not a single detail goes un-visioned either. From the sound of the horn at the start, to the taste of the Gatorade at the volunteer station, to the sound of the announcer calling my name out as I cross the finish line. I can hear the sounds of the spectators cheering for the runners as we run by. I can taste the sweat from my face and I can feel the rhythm of my breath as my speed increases with each passing mile. I can see myself passing the runner in front of me. Then the next runner, and the next runner. I can feel the footsteps of the runner behind me trying to make his move. I can count each mile in my head and the exact pace that I know I am capable of running. I think about the award ceremony and having my name called out in front of thousands of people as I walk up and collect my medal. I can hear the clapping and the shouting. I can feel the accomplishment, the success.

I just ran 17 miles and my body doesn't care because my mind is off winning a race and running the best time I have ever ran!

The first step in succeeding in whatever your goal is, is being able to vision yourself doing it. To be able to imagine what it feels like to accomplish anything is the greatest weapon you have to succeeding in doing so. After all, if your mind doesn't believe you can do it, Then how do you expect to train your body to believe you can?

How powerful is to be able to step up to a starting line with confidence because as far as you are concerned, you already ran that race ten times over the last month??? You already know the feeling of success and now all you have to do is go grab it. This feeling, is your advantage over every other runner at that starting line with you.

So yes, exercise is important. Your training is the key to success and the more you train the better you will perform. These are all facts, running 101. Just don't forget to train the most important but probably most forgotten part of you...Your mind.

The when and the where of this part of your training is completely up to you. I personally enjoy doing it after a long run for the simple fact that it does keep my mind off of the soreness that can come with running a lot of miles. But maybe you prefer to do it before a workout. Or maybe you do it on your drive to work or as you are falling asleep at night. There really is not a right or wrong time to start imagining the success that awaits you.

Prefontaine once said that "Running is like a work of art". Well every artist creates a masterpiece that started with a vision. Why not make your next race your masterpiece? Start imagining every stride as an artist would imagine every stroke of their brush. Start imagining crossing the finish line just like an artist knows what their painting will look like when it's done.

Discover your goal...imagine accomplishing it...and make it so! Pretty soon, the actual "running" part of your workout and your race becomes simple, a means to an end.

Jakob Irwin

-The Cultural Runner-

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