Posted by: Susan Loken | July 3, 2011

Positive Thinking

Flash from Sole Sports Running Zone had a running camp and asked me to talk about positive thinking and the role it has in running. I thought I would share my notes with you.

 Top 11 Lessons from Running

Everything I ever needed to know about achieving goals and living a life of passion and purpose I learned from running.

  1. Believe in yourself: When I finished my first marathon in 4 hours you would have thought I won a gold medal at the Olympics! I had trained so hard, persevered during difficult training weeks, stuck to my plan, balanced training with 3 young boys and succeeded. When I looked at my finisher’s medal I just knew that I could do anything I set my mind to. My second marathon qualified me for the Boston Marathon. Then, in 2003, I qualified for my first Olympic Trials. My first marathon taught me that if you believe in yourself and work hard, youwill succeed!
  2. Act as if: Each time I pick a new goal to achieve, I act as if I’m going to succeed. No, I don’t go around bragging stating that I’m going to kick ass or anything. It’s a quiet confidence. I train, visualize and act as if I’m going to succeed. For example, I pick a goal and write down the time goal and the words “90 percent of doing anything is believing that you can!” and put this goal on my refrigerator. I don’t say I’m trying to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials, I say, I’m training to qualify for
    the 2012 Olympic Trials. What we think, we become. So be sure to think and act as if.
  3. Accept challenges, failures and setbacks as necessary lessons on your journey to success: This is a big one. If you’ve never failed, then your goals are most likely way too easy. If you truly reach for your full potential then you will have failure and setbacks. Expect and accept this. Some of the most valuable lessons are learned from such challenges! I know not to start races at a pace I can’t keep, but only after running out of fuel at the end of a few races. I know not to be worried about the outcome of a race, because when I have done that in the past, I don’t enjoy the journey or concentrate on the moment. I know to stick to a stretching and strength training plan, but only after I’ve been injured. Heck, I could go on and on about the numerous lessons I’ve learned from failure, but I think you get it! I’ve learned way more from setbacks than from successes! Look at challenges as opportunities to grow what will bring you one step closer to achieving your dream goal.
  4. Have a realistic goal, a dream goal and a not-my-day goal: There are so many ways factors that go into running a perfect race. Prepare for the worst, but expect the best! Your training and race plan should be based on a “barely within reach” realistic goal. Your dream goal should be your performance level if everything went perfectly on race day – you
    feel great, the wind is at your back, competition brings you to a new level,
    and your legs feel like they are floating. Lastly, the not-my-day goal. Ugh, we all will experience races like this – you wake up, your period starts, your nose is stuffed up, it’s snowing outside, and you brought two left shoes! However, if you mentally prepare for ALL of this, then you will be ready to handle it. Better yet, if everything is perfect then you are ready to capture your dream! No matter the outcome, you will do your best, focus on the moment and your plan and be happy.
  5. Be grateful: So often, we focus on the bad things when we should focus on what we are grateful for. Every day write down at least one (hopefully more!) thing that you are grateful for. If I don’t meet my goal during a challenging race, after, I write down everything I’m grateful for, the lessons I learned during training, the lessons I learned during the race, and then I let it go. You have to move forward, and, next time, act as if you’re going to nail it and you will!
  6. Avoid negative people: I have been blessed with some of the most amazing training partners anyone could ever ask for, and I owe so much of my success to all of them. If any of my training partners are reading this, I LOVE YOU and feel so grateful to have you in my
    life. Anyway, by surrounding myself with people that I respect, admire and that motivate me, I become a runner, and person, and hopefully I can do the same for them. However, I have had training partners that were so negative or their lives were filled with so much drama that it sucked all the positive energy out of me. I learned really quickly to avoid being around downers. I’m still kind and respectful to them; I just limit my time around them. Don’t get me wrong, friends are friends during good and bad times, no matter what! I’m talking about the person that has negative thoughts and self-inflected drama all the time. Believe me when I tell you that my friends and I help each other through good times and bad times, no matter what!
  7. Stay motivated: When I achieve one goal, I move onto the next. This keeps me motivated and fuels my passion. In the fall of 2008, I was mentally burnt out and ready to take a break from competition, so my goal was to have fun and stay in shape. I found myself running less and less because my training didn’t have a purpose, and while I needed a mental break I learned that training with a goal keeps you motivated and on track. Life with set goals makes life exciting and fun! You don’t have to train for the Olympic Trails, your goal can be something such as running one marathon each year in a new place. Just have a goal.
  8. Positive affirmations: Find small note cards that you can place around your house, in your car, in your wallet, on your mirror, etc. Write phrases on them such as, “I am strong and fast!” “Believe to achieve!” “Never, never, never give up!” Write a religious verse that offers you strength. “The lord is my strength!” Find words that motivate you and say them every day to boost your confidence and keep you positive. I have “Believe” tattooed on my foot, I have motivating quotes all over my house, and I select favorite mantras or quotes to chant during difficult miles during marathons. Think it and be it!
  9. Show appreciation: Many people will help you along the way, because success is not a solo journey. You will find that whatever your goal is, people love to be a part of anything positive. Reaching goals would not be fun if you didn’t have family and friends to share the excitement with you. Show them your appreciation. I say thank you to race volunteers, I send thank you notes to race directors, I send business to my massage therapist, chiropractor, trainer, coach, etc. I gave a roundtrip ticket that I won from winning the SF marathon to my training partner. I gave a watch that I won to my chiropractor. I gave my trainer a magnum of wine I won from a wine country half marathon. Any sponsors I have, I’m sure to refer them and talk about them. It feels good to be appreciated, and it feels good to appreciate others!
  10. Enjoy the journey without worrying about the outcome: During one of my marathons, I played a game. As I chatted with all of my competition, noting who was worried about their finish time, worried about the mistakes in training, worried that they didn’t get enough sleep, or worried that they were sick four weeks ago. Guess what? None of them achieved their goal. However, those who talked about how they were going to run each mile at a given pace, that they were sticking to their plan, that they trained hard and that they were ready to run each mile hard, they all achieved their goal.
  11. Don’t compare yourself to others: When I first started running competitively in Arizona my goal was to beat Angela French (the fastest women in AZ at the time). I finally beat her at a local half marathon and felt great about it. I went up to her to say hello, and good race, and she said something like, “Don’t get too close, because I have bronchitis and the flu.” Was I really feeling good about myself because I beat a sick competitor? I should have felt good because I trained hard and ran a personal best. Bottom line, use competition to help bring yourself to a new level, but don’t base how you feel about your performance on who you beat or didn’t beat. We all have good and bad days, and you never know what’s going on with anyone else. Put all your energy into concentrating on your race and doing your best.


  1. Great advice. I printed and posted this in my office on campus. Each posint is so well thoughtout.

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