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Visualization for Runners

If you have a training program for your fitness routine, you probably spend a lot of time focused on it. The following is a technique used by Tina Muir which I want to share with you. It’s so easy to think that training is only physical but it’s also training your mind, and we often overlook that mental focus. Visualization can help.

Tina Muir of England trains out of Lexington, Kentucky. Muir placed third in the 2012 Great Britain Olympic Trials. She was an 11-time Division II All-American in cross country and track (2008-2012) at Ferris State University. She finished the 2015 Virgin London Marathon in 2:41. At the 31st Army Ten-Miler in 2015, Muir was the female champion. Muir turned in the third fastest winning time in the history of the race.

Muir uses the concept of visualization and she states,

Every runner can benefit from visualization, and not just for running either. This can be used in almost every area of your life, really. So how do you know if visualization is for you? If any of these are in your head:

I’m experiencing self-doubt.

I’m very mentally weak.

I have a fear that I’ll go out too quickly and won’t be able to finish.

I don’t know how to embrace the pain that comes with pushing myself to go faster.

I want to know how to build mental toughness for running.

Having self-doubt is one thing. We all have self-doubt and moments we think that there is no way we are ever going to accomplish this big scary goal. But if you truly believe that you can do this, and you will do whatever it takes to get there, you can have it.

Muir goes through the steps to follow and it will take practice time to perfect, “The first step is to choose your goal. Think about what it would feel like to accomplish that goal. Find a goal that will make you so happy, tears will come to your eyes.”

Once you have chosen your goal, usually for a race that is 3-6 weeks away, pick a time that you can have some alone time to think without interruptions.

First thing in the morning when you wake up (before you get out of bed) or last thing at night (before you fall asleep) are often the best opportunities to have time to yourself.

Here are some steps to visualize running your race:

1. Close your eyes.

In your mind’s eye, start to see all the parts of the race morning. Using as many details as you can, see yourself going through that morning. These could be details such as:

  • Eating your pre-race meal, your stomach has butterflies, but you get enough down to feel confident
  • Going to the bathroom before you leave the house/hotel, taking a deep breath knowing at least that is out the way
  • Arriving at the course (in plenty of time), and relaxing for a few moments
  • Warming up, feeling a little sluggish, but knowing that is expected
  • Standing on the start line, using your power pose as you look out onto the course
  • Starting the race, smiling to yourself that it is time to go

2. Pick 5-6 moments along the race course.

Imagine going past those, smiling to yourself that you are there doing it (these can be family members standing there, monuments, or just mile markers).

3. Think about a tough moment.

A moment where you are really struggling, the voices in your head are loud, but then see yourself getting through it, and thinking “Okay, that’s over, good job; I made it through that part. I feel good again now.”

4. See yourself come around the corner to see the finish.

Feel that smile on your face as you realize how fast you have run. Walk back to your car/train/hotel (maybe feeling stiff and sore), but smile because it was worth it!



The first few times you do this, you will probably struggle with the details. It will feel a little awkward and forced, but if you continue to do this every day, you will notice that each day, more and more is added to the process.

You’ll set yourself up for greater success if you practice this visualization technique for runners!


  • George Banker

    George Banker is the Operations Manager for the Army Ten-Miler (US Army / MDW), the second largest 10-mile road race in the United States. Since 2003, his responsibilities include the operational planning, logistics, community outreach, design of the course, volunteer recruitment, and support to medical and police jurisdictions. Prior to joining the Army Ten-Miler, he worked 25 years at IBM serving in administration and management within the federal marketing environment in Bethesda, Maryland. He is retired from the U.S. Air Force (enlisted grade Technical Sergeant), where his experience included ground refueling supervisor and cryogenic fluids production supervisor. He received 14 military decorations including the Air Force Commendation Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal (1969-1989). Since 1983, he has worked as a freelance photographer and journalist, senior writer for the Runner’s Gazette, contributor to Running Journal newspaper, and He is the author of “The Marine Corps Marathon: A Running Tradition”. He is an avid runner, with 114 marathons completed. You can find our more about him at


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