The Power of Positive Thinking

My thirteen-year-old daughter is currently training for her first half marathon. She’s run several 5k’s and a 10k over the years and wanted to try her hand at a half marathon this spring. Although she runs by herself during the week, she and I run at least part of our long runs together. I’ll run farther than she does so when she turns around to go back home, I keep running for another mile or so.

This past weekend, she and I were running together and I was a bit ahead of her, and was gaining ground as I ran downhill. I passed a man who was walking the other direction (towards me) and he said that I had startled him (but he was really nice about it). I told him there was another runner coming behind me and that it was my daughter.

When the man came upon my daughter, he said to her, “You can catch her. I know you can do it!” or something to that effect. That conversation was unbeknownst to me until my daughter mentioned it to me at home after our run. All I knew was she quickly caught up with me before I even reached the bottom of that hill I was going down and she was either right at my side or a couple of strides ahead of me for the rest of the run until it was time for her to turn around.

Twinning in our Honey Stinger shirts on a long run!

When she got home, I checked her mile splits on Strava and saw that she continued at the pace she was at when we saw the man and she even managed to speed up towards the end. Her last mile out of 11 miles was her fastest. This is impressive not only because she’s only run longer than 11 miles once, when she accidentally ran 12 miles; she was supposed to run something like 8 miles but got turned around and ended up running 12. This is also impressive because as I mentioned, she’s only 13 so she’s not a seasoned runner and has struggled with pacing herself on long runs by starting out too fast and slowing down for the last few miles.

All of this got me thinking about how much of a role our brains have in long-distance running. My daughter told me about how that man’s comment made her push herself harder for the entire rest of her run. We had only run about 1.5 miles when we saw him, so she pushed for 9.5 miles, which is no small feat for anyone.

Lately I’ve been reading some books about the power of positive thinking and how it effects us in running and life in general. I really enjoyed Deana Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run and have been applying some of the things she discussed to my runs. For instance, on a run about a week ago, it was really windy and as I was running into the wind, my quads felt tired. Instead of thinking, “This wind sucks. My legs are tired and I just want to be done with this run” I turned it around to “This wind is making my legs stronger” and I was able to finish my run on a more positive note.

Not that positive thinking alone will make you as fast as Deana Kastor. You do have to put in all of the hard work to get faster. Still, I think the power of the mind is so powerful and it can and does influence our bodies in so many ways we’re only beginning to understand.

What about you all? Are you a big believer in positive thinking or do you think it’s over-rated?

Happy running!



Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

20 thoughts on “The Power of Positive Thinking”

  1. Running (especially distance running) is ALL about positive thinking. I’ve been amazed at how in one moment I feel like I’ll die, then some encouraging words or a familiar face can get me back at it and ready to roll. 🙂

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  2. I am a HUGE fan of positive thinking. In the last half marathon I ran where I crushed my PR by 11 minutes, positive thinking got me there. The first part of the race I went out pretty quick, but I held onto that pace reinforcing my thinking with “I’m going to CRUSH my goal” and I wanted to beat my goal time so badly that I kept pushing even when my legs wanted to quit and my Bluetooth headphones decided to stop working at mile 11: Positive thinking for the win!

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  3. My glass is always half full, so I try to enjoy the run.
    I ran a five loop half marathon in March and people complained about the loops. I thought it was great that I got to learn the course and run strategically on subsequent loops.
    In the rain and wind in Boston last year? What a great story to tell!
    To paraphrase Yogi Berra, 90% of running is half mental!

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  4. You are so lucky you have a daughter willing to run with you. Only one of my kids has ever run with me (we did the Broad St. 10-miler together once), and he isn’t currently running. Best of luck to your daughter and her upcoming half!

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! She had a rocky start with running so to have her actually tell me she wants to run all of her long runs with me is something I appreciate. It’s very special to have this bond with her and I’m so grateful.

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  5. Oh gosh, where to begin? First, the husband is a former high school assistant XC coach (and 2-time Ironman) and is forever making comments (like the one the man made to your daughter) to runners we pass. Often we’ll be sitting on our front stoop having a glass of wine and when a runner goes past he’ll give various motivating comments like that. He can’t help himself. 🙂 Second, I see you’re a Honey Stingers ambassador. I love Honey Stingers! I call them my “rocket fuel.” We’ve got a duathlon in two weeks and I’m sure I’ll be using Honey Stingers on the bike. Third, totally believe in positive thinking. It has helped get the husband and me through difficult work situations. Finally, congrats to your daughter. That’s no small feat.

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    1. That’s impressive that your husband is a 2 time Ironman! I absolutely love Honey Stinger. Their cracker N’ nut butter bars have been called “like crack” by many an ambassador. I’m biased but am extremely proud of my daughter. I only wish she would gain some self confidence and see what everyone else sees in her!

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  6. I am definitely a glass-half-full runner, but I do sometimes get sucked into negative thinking, especially when I’m tired and know I should probably have taken a rest day- but there I know it’s the rest day that’s the issue and not my thinking. When I run with someone, and I make one nice comment about how they’re doing or to keep trying, it seems to really make an impact on them, which honestly surprises me, but makes me want to do it more often.

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    1. Your positive attitude is reflected in your running, too, Dorothea, as you’re one of the fastest runners I know! I’m sure your positive comments to fellow runners have even more of an impact than you realize.

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  7. Props to your daughter for mastering such long distances at a young age and doing it so well! I strongly agree the mind can control a lot. I had a guy go from a 54.8 best 400m time to a 53.36 at yesterday’s invite. He came in seeded near the end like 27th overall, but I told him that just qualifying for that invite was an accomplishment that it was a hard one to get into, and that he should just focus on running a good time to be seeded better for the county meet. He easily could’ve came in thinking oh this race doesn’t matter since I’m so slow compared to the other guys, but he didn’t and his drop in time proved it – he ended up 13th overall which was a huge jump from his original seed time.

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