With four weeks to the 2017 Witness Maritzburg Marathon you should be clear as to your goal, and now in the midst of your peak training period you should be spending more time lighting the fire in your heart and bringing focus to what you want to achieve on Sunday 26 February.

The glint and enthusiasm in the eye of a motivated runner is the light of potential irrespective of their current ability, because that is the sign of something deeper – a desire to achieve, – and that is the driving force that can conquer virtually every known obstacle if it is cultivated and cherished from the time the idea was conceived to the date of the race.

The minute the goal was set, the odds of achievement increased.

When a club level marathon runner says they are going to improve their personal best by 10, or 15 minutes in 8 or 9 months’ time, there is every chance that he or she will achieve that goal, particularly when its linked to a specific reason or landmark event that makes the outcome important to them.

Given that they have run a marathon before, these runners already have an idea of what it’s going to take to get faster, and the sort of effort and commitment that’s required.

Even when making only minor modifications to their previous preparations, the chances of success increase not so much because of the changes, but because they have commenced visualizing their success and the reward they will get.

The minute such runners put pen to paper to commence ‘planning’ a training schedule, or booking accommodation and transport to the start, they commence analyzing and visualizing the race situation.

The more they do, the greater the detail of the analysis and planning, the greater their desire to achieve, and of course the better they are prepared.

Planning and preparation can often out run talent.

Talent and physical training only takes you two thirds the way through a race, the decision to excel or settle for moderate performance occurs in the final third.

This year that will happen at the end of the slow poison up Alexander Road extension to the dip and short climb of Gladys Manzi Road, the highest point. It is here that analysis, planning, and the visualization are rewarded

There is a reason why the third lap in a mile race tends to be the slowest: it’s the same reason we ask the question “what am I doing this for?” when we are 6km into the 10km race, 13-15km into a half marathon and 32-35km in a marathon. Ask any ultra-marathoner, the longer the event the longer we have to wrestle with the question.

Effectively we balance the perception of the required pain, fatigue and effort, versus the perception of the reward we will gain if we achieve our goal.

If we believe the reward is sufficient, we drive on for excellence:
If we, at that stage of the race, perceive the reward as mundane or of little consequence we will take the foot off the accelerator and settle for a comfortable finish. We may even drop out if the ‘penalty’ of pain is perceived as being too great.

Most runners are aware of this questioning time in the races where we hope to achieve something special (to us).

However, the runner who has set their mind on the goal well in advance and built up to the point where they believe the sun will not rise the following day unless they reach their target, may not even be aware of the question in that particular race:

His (or her) subconscious asks and answers the question instantly.
The motivation has become so strong that the question has become ridiculous and doesn’t merit consideration.

That is an incredibly powerful state to go into a race, and it is one that is open to every runner who has a real desire to achieve a goal.

No matter what your goal, there is no better time to focus this psychological training than now! ‘Now’ gives you the absolute best chance of gaining the greatest benefit.

It commences with researching everything you can about the event, from the practicalities of travel and race logistics, previous finishing times, to the history, traditions, scenery and yes even after party.

This will have even greater importance in this year’s Witness Medihelp Maritzburg City Marathon, powered by clover and Khayelihle, given the new start and finish venue at the Golden Horse Casino

This planning is not restricted to your time of relaxation: there is power to be had from focusing on your vision during a lone long run, or when triggered by the sight of another runner on the road, or a photo of say the Pietermaritzburg City Hall that you will run around each lap: any and all can stimulate and build your desire to achieve a goal: When a goal and desire invades your thoughts and days, your talent diminishes and your mind grows in contribution to the outcome.

Thoughts on achieving the peak training weeks, and fulfilling the quality sessions, all contribute to your confidence level and make you harder to break when the chips are down or something goes awry on race day.

No matter which event you are gunning for in 2017: no matter what level of performance or runner you consider yourself to be, planning will make you a tougher, more resilient runner on race day – We can all be successful when we put our head and heart behind our goal.