Race Day Visualization Strategies


There comes a point in your training when the milage is done. Another long run won’t make or break your race, and tapering is inevitable. Can you do anything else to keep getting better in time for race day? The answer is yes. Physical training is just a part of race day success. Mental training is equally important. One of the quickest ways to train your mind for race day is through race day visualization. With this process, you picture the various parts of the day and potential feelings, obstacles, scenarios, etc., while assuring yourself of your success in those areas. We will explain the process to achieving a strong, focused mind below, as well as some quick tips for when the going gets tough.

The most important voice on the course is your own. You are most likely to believe in your own voice, and do what it says. Keep it positive.

Find a quiet place to relax and close your eyes. This could be your bedroom, the park, your porch, etc. Any place that makes you comfortable, and that you can leave stress behind. We recommend sitting up or laying back vs. laying completely down… it could get a bit too easy to fall asleep that way.

Let your mind wander into race day…

  • Morning

    • Wake up, eat breakfast. Are you listening to your favorite pump up jam, or soaking up those moments of silence? Who is there with you?

    • Imagine packing up the gear before heading out the door.

    • Do the bathroom thing. High five self. It’s gonna be a good day.

  • Start

    • The sun is coming up. The start line energy is high. You’ve put in the work to get here. This is the celebration of all of your training, not the test. 

    • Feel the breeze on your skin. What does the landscape look like? To make it to the finish line, you’ll have to make friends with the weather and the landscape. 

    • Everybody standing at this start line will be running in the same conditions, stepping on the same rocks, running through the same dirt and mud. 

  • Race

      • own energy and those pain-blocking endorphins. Know what pace is going to get you to the finish line, and stick with that. You’ll feel really good when you start reeling in those sprint-from-the-start folks in a few miles.

      • Picture what you will do when the going gets tough. A lot of the time, your body is signaling that it needs something. Ice? Electrolytes? Food? What is going to taste good at different parts of the race? Having a strategy before hand will allow you to make quicker race-saving decisions later in the day. Feeling grumpy or mentally low? Get some salty foods to boost your electrolytes. You might be amazed.

      • Be a frequent positive self-talker. Leadville 100 Run founder Ken Chlouber has said that the longest distance on the course is the six inches between your ears. Conquering your own mind is a huge factor on race day. The most important voice on the course is your own. You are most likely to believe in your own voice, and do what it says. Keep it positive.

      • After a long day of running in the heat, think of how good it will feel to watch the sun go down. The air gets cooler, the sounds change, the colors get more vibrant…

      • Imagine putting on the headlamp and deciding to flip that thing on. When you reach to turn it off, you’ll be SO close to the finish line!

      • What were other tough runs you’ve done that required you to push and stay uncomfortable for a while? Picture yourself going through and making it through the tough stuff. You’ll make it happen again!

      • Sunrise! Feel the sun on your skin again. Maybe even see your breath. Listen to the birds chirp as you realize you’ve made it through to the new day. 

  • Finish

    • What does the last 5k, mile, 400m feel like? Imagine yourself running toward that finish and down the chute, passing somebody with a big smile on your face, and getting that medal hung around your neck.

    • Feel the weight of the medal around your neck. You earned that!

    • Who is there to witness, give hugs, and congratulate you? Going solo? Hug the race director or a volunteer!

Focus on breathing as you visualize. Take deep breaths. Feel your chest rise and fall. Imagine your breath flowing through your lungs and back out your lips. You can also try to flex different muscle groups from time to time as you go through each phase of the race, i.e. calves for 10 seconds, rest for 20, thighs, hams, abs, arms, etc to imagine yourself activating those muscles as you run. 

Having a strong mind on race day is 90% of the battle. With practice and preparation, you can be ready for those curveballs that are all too common on race day. We’d love to hear your feedback or if you have any additional tricks that have worked for you!