The Runner’s Brain + Week 13 Boston Marathon Training

Time for me to nerd out for a sec, guys.


I was listening to an old podcast from the Marathon Training Academy where they interviewed Dr. Jeff Brown, author of The Runner’s Brain.  In the episode, he addresses my old college psychology class days when he speaks about cognitive behavioral psychology and running.  Cognitive behavioral psychology is based on the idea that our thoughts and feelings shape our behavior.  In super, oversimplified terms, positive thoughts can lead to positive outcomes, whereas negative thoughts can lead to negative feelings and negative behaviors.


So how does this relate to running?


In his interview, Dr. Brown describes neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change, and therefore we have the ability to train our brains to respond in different ways.  Your brain can only take in so much information at once, so Dr. Brown stresses that you have to send yourself specific evidence-based thoughts that say that, “you are a runner,  you are competent, and you are able.”  Runners should rely on thinking about all the training and preparation they did to get to the race (all the positive evidence that you are a strong runner) in order to promote a positive race outcome.


Another technique Dr. Brown describes from the Runner’s Brain is visualization.  He actually says that you should visualize and rehearse potential pitfalls of your race- ie: hitting the wall, getting a cramp, missing a water stop- and practice the positive thinking by asking yourself, “how am I going to deal with that?”  You can train your brain to think of ways to proactively solve problems you may encounter along the race by using all five senses and visualizing it in real-time. That way, in case you do actually face those negative issues, you will be prepared to deal with and overcome those obstacles.  Pretty cool huh?!?!




So what am I going to do?


I am working on visualizing the race, finding mantras or quotes that will help me to keep moving forward, and mental games to distract myself.  In the past when I have trained for marathons, I’ve focused on my training plan and my nutrition, but one thing that I never tried before was working on my thoughts around the race.  After listening to this interview about the Runner’s Brain, I’ve been practicing some mental strategies during my long runs to get ready for race day.


(Who knew that trying to figure out how many words are in the words “Easter” and “easterly” during the last few miles of a 20 mile run would let me get down to 7:08 pace?!?!)






Since I have been focusing on my mental training, this week’s quote deals with the mental side of racing and it comes from one of my idols, Kara Goucher.  Next time, when my library request for the copy of The Runner’s Brain comes through, I can pull a quote from Dr. Brown 🙂




“I try to think about positive things – how great my form is, how my arms are swinging, my breathing, how loud people are cheering. My sports psychologist taught me there are a million things telling you “You can’t keep going,” but if you find the things that say you can, you’re golden.”

I plan to arm myself with a list of positives (as well as apparently anagram-able words #nerdalert) to keep me putting one foot in front of the other on Marathon Monday.


Happy Running,




Boston Marathon Training Week 13

(To read previous weeks, click here)

Planned: 55 mi.  Actual: 59.5 mi.

Fleet Feet’s plan had us dropping quite a bit in mileage from last week, but I decided to still keep it high.  I ran through all four seasons this week in Chicago- did Yassos during a thunderstorm on Wednesday night, ran a long run in flurries on Saturday, and raced in thirty degree weather Sunday morning only to have it be 75 degrees later in the day!

Monday 7 Ez.  Day’s total: 7.14, 8:24 pace

  • Felt so slow and tight so I called Kelly for a massage.  She is a miracle worker!


Tuesday: 9 w/6 @ tempo.  Day’s total: 9.34 mi, 7:00 avg for tempo portion

  • AM: The workout: 6 mile clearance tempo like last week but harder: run 2/3rds of the mile at half marathon pace, the last 1/3rd at slightly faster than marathon pace (again designed to train the body to recover at faster paces). Felt GREAT and was between a 6:57 and 7:01 average for each mile so I was crazy consistent.


Rewarded for a tough workout with a beautiful sunrise
  • PM: Detox Yoga at Kru Strength + Fitness.  Not a good workout, but I did get some stretching benefit.  Wish I had chosen something else though.


Wednesday: NP + Speed (10 x 800s Yassos).  Day’s total: 10.8

  • AM: November Project.  It was PR day so I just ran to the hill with the group, competed (and won) a 6 minute plank off with Kevin, and then headed back to my car.
  • PM: Planned for 10 Yassos.  It was lightning and drizzling at the start with a very strong headwind when we headed south in the lot.  Splits were: Splits were 3:22, 3:12, 3:21, 3:02, 3:11, 2:58, 3:20, 3:00.  After 8 Yassos I decided to call it a day because I didn’t want to wear myself out too much for the Shuffle this weekend.


I take my Yasso's with a side of lightning and strong winds
I take my Yasso’s with a side of lightning and strong winds

Thursday: XT/Rest Day.  Day’s total: 0

  • Hot Buddha Burn in the morning and then nothing after that.  Man I love rest days.


Friday:  NP + 7 EZ.  Day’s total: 9.01, 7:54 avg

  • Won some sweet arm sleeves at NP and then ran south through Northerly Island before heading off to work.
Mountain climbers 2.0
Mountain climbers 2.0
Runner's Brain NP sleeves
Trying to look badass in the pouring rain

Saturday: 13 mi.  Day’s total: 15.45, 7:35 avg

  • Wanted to do more than the 13 that Fleet Feet had on the schedule because I thought dropping from 20 miles to 13 was a bit too much.  On my 2 mile warmup to the store, I ran into Kelly (she was doing 20) so we ran there together.  The weather was so temperamental, flurries one minute, sunshine the next, wind from the south, then the north, then both at once.  Yeesh!


Sunday: 8 EZ – I opted for the Shamrock Shuffle instead. Day’s total: 7.70 mi, 6:30 avg for the Shuffle!

  • Race report coming soon!  It was a 26 second PR, and I definitely felt like I could have gone faster.  My splits were extremely consistent (although my GPS was very wonky), and I passed quite a few people coming down the stretch. I hope that bodes well for Boston!



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