Train Your Brain: Building Your Mental Muscle

Dr. Chelsi Day and Dr. Jennifer Carter of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Psyching Team share how to exercise one of your most important muscles and train your brain for race day.

If asked how much time, energy, and effort one spends physically training for a marathon of any distance, I am sure little time would pass before the runner responded with an emphatic “A LOT!”. But as many well know, training for a race is not a purely physical demand. In fact, a popular saying in the running community is that “running is 90% mental and the rest is physical”.

So…how much time do you spend mentally training? It may be easy to overlook the mental component of training, even in an activity that is frequently described as 90% mental. Are you willing to risk the hours of long, hard, physical training as a result of not being mentally prepared on race day? 

What is Mental Training?

Mental training is the practice of mental skills such as goal mapping, imagery, and relaxation techniques that are useful during practice and competition. Regularly practicing mental skills can help athletes respond to adversity and reach peak performance. Athletes of all ages, skill levels, and sports have found mental training helpful. Mental training really does work! But it is important to remember that, like physical training, mental training requires practice. When coupled with physical training, mental training can help put you in the best position to perform to your potential.

How to Get Started

If mental training is new to you, knowing how to start or what to do might be overwhelming. Here are some quick tips on how to begin building your mental muscle as you move forward:

  1. Make sure you engage in mental training regularly—think of it as another training run. You wouldn’t skip many training runs at risk of being unprepared on race day. Treat mental training the same way!
  2. Become more aware during training. Recognizing how you typically behave and think while exercising can help identify where you may need to start implementing mental skills. Notice your breathing, your thoughts during training runs, or how you set your goals. How would you answer these questions when you performed your best? What about when you performed your worst?
  3. Keep it simple! Trying to do too much, too soon may backfire with mental training. Start with incorporating a few basic mental skills, like goal mapping. Think about your ultimate goals for race day, ways to check your progress to that goal, and strategies you can implement every day to help get you there.
  4. Don’t be afraid to seek out more information. There are many people willing to help with mental training! The Columbus Marathon Psyching Team will be there as race day approaches to aid in answering any questions you may have.
  5. Have fun! Mental skills training should be fun activities that enhance your performance. If something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to change up your mental training routine!

The Pysching Team – Dr. Chelsi Day and 20 volunteer psychologists and sport performance consultants offer you mental strategies before, during, and after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Marathon & 1⁄2 Marathon.
Launched at our event in 2013 by Dr. Chelsi Day, the Psyching Team has worked with more than 600 individuals, groups of athletes and workshop participants. Runners and walkers have expressed specific interest in learning about relaxation and setting realistic goals as well as ways to mentally prepare for race day.

Murphy’s Law is in play here…

This post is the fourth in a series of guest posts by Eric Motter. Read his firstsecond and third in the series. Check back every few weeks to read more about his journey as a Nike-sponsored athlete and his marathon training progress.

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” – Murphy’s Law

When I last left you, I was experiencing a rough summer. The brutal humidity was making my long runs a challenge, my trainer – Randy “Bones” Benedict, runner extraordinaire and the Manager of Second Sole in Gahanna – was tormenting helping me through tortuous speed workouts, and I was about to test myself to ensure I was within reach of being on pace for a sub-2:00 half marathon.

A few things have gone well for me since then:

  1. I ran my next long run at about a 9:10 pace. I need to run a 9:08 pace on race day, so I’m close. Maybe it’s somewhere deep down inside…
  1. I upgraded to Nike Vomero 9 running shoes. I have had several pairs of Vomeros over the last couple of years and over time have eliminated the shin splints I used to have when my mileage got heavier. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
  1. I got a new Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch, although this won’t really pay off until winter. You know how your old GPS watch takes a few minutes to be found by the satellite? It typically happens when you’re standing in sub-30 temperatures waiting to start a run. Well, this one syncs in about a second.
  1. I continued to ramp up my speed work and actually look forward to those runs now. Although it’s not showing up in improved long run times, I feel like I’m able to do runs that I wouldn’t have been able to do 10 weeks ago, and the speed work is what is driving it. 
  1. I upgraded my running socks to Nike Dri-Fits. Those things are designed to be so snug that each individual sock specifies whether it is for the left foot or for the right. Think about the shape of your foot and why that would be important for a runner… It’s a bit of a no-brainer. Why has nobody thought to do that before now?

Unfortunately, everything else has pretty much gone south. Instead of spreading these horror stories out over several blog posts, I’ll just relay what I’ve learned all at once.

  1. It’s not a good idea to take a Mexican vacation in the middle of training. Bones allowed me to back down my training to where I just needed to sweat for 30 minutes each day rather than log long miles (hello beach yoga!) while on vacation. That was great, but unfortunately I returned from Mexico with a mini Montezuma’s revenge. I never quite felt sick, but my stomach wasn’t settled for almost a week. It was tough to log quality miles under those circumstances.
  1. Sometimes Body Glide isn’t enough. Take a look at this picture.

Now look again, but closely this time. Hint: That’s not a pink corsage. I sent this picture to Bones from my hotel room in Connecticut after a tough 5:00 a.m. treadmill run.NCHCM

Our actual text conversation:

Me: Need something better than Body Glide <pic attached>

Bones: Holy $#%@! Almost dropped my phone! You just made my morning.

Can you feel the sympathy in his response?

  1. Hill workouts should never be done when the temperature is north of 80 degrees at 7:00 a.m. When the post-run cramp hit me I was on a conference call. I actually had to pretend I didn’t yelp in pain (“Ugh, sorry… I was just clearing my throat…”) and mute the phone so I could lay on the floor and cry while stretching out my cramping calf.
  1. It’s not a good idea to put your training log folder in the seatback pocket in front of you on a plane when you’re drafting your blog. You might forget it. It also wasn’t a good idea for me to have a life insurance application that contained an identity thief’s wish list in the same folder. I’d love to share details of some of the good and bad days I’ve had, how my diet affected certain runs, funny things I’ve thought about and scribbled on my training log immediately after finishing a run, but that info is somewhere in an airport dumpster.
  1. This summer in Ohio has not been conducive to long runs. I haven’t had a good outdoor long run since my test run in late July. I’m hearing similar stories from other runners this summer.

To summarize, I’m off track right now. 1:59:59 seems like a pipe dream. Bones has me doing more speed work for the next few weeks, and hopefully I can catch a break and have a long run on a morning where it’s 60 degrees and cool. Until then, I’ll just keep checking my credit report and continue to bleed from odd places.

Running and Sleep

Because sleep is an essential part of any training regimen, Dr. Chelsi Day and Dr. Jennifer Carter of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon Psyching Team share how to put common sleep-related issues to rest. 

With the physical demand of training for a half or full marathon while still fulfilling family and employment obligations, we often let sleep be the first thing to suffer. The two work together in that, at times we sacrifice sleep to get that training run done without disrupting our schedule while at other times we are so worried about getting it all done without dropping the ball that our mind races, keeping us awake. For some of us, we struggle with true insomnia which impacts it all. What we know is that inadequate sleep can cause significant negative impact on both physical and psychological functioning. Use these tips from Clinical and Sport Psychologist, Dr. Jennifer Carter of OSU Sport’s Medicine to help establish a good routine during training and increase the quality, and maybe quantity, of your sleep.

Five Tips to Catch Some ZZZs

1. Establish a Bedtime Routine - While it is difficult to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day, experts recommend this routine to help sleep. If you have insomnia, try to keep your wake-up time constant but go to bed one hour later for a few nights. Some people enjoy a nighttime routine that includes a warm shower, a hot non-caffeinated beverage, reading, or writing in a journal. Avoid watching TV or using electronics right before bed, because blue light suppresses melatonin.

2. Chill Out – Disrupted sleep is so frustrating. And tensing up or trying to force sleep makes it more difficult. Use diaphragmatic breathing and muscle relaxation techniques to unwind after a long day. Sport psychologists can make a relaxation audio file for you (many can also be found online). Trust your body to slip into sleep when you’re ready.

3. Think Accurately About Sleep – There are myths that interfere with sleep, like, “I have to get 8 hours or tomorrow will be ruined!” Realistically, many people function quite well on less sleep. Our bodies will eventually catch up on sleep if we don’t worry about it too much. Look at insomnia as a gift, allowing you to get things done or attend to a pressing issue. Keep a notepad or journal near the bed to write down worries to be addressed while awake.

4. Interfere with Ruminations – Do you have worrisome thoughts playing in a loop in your mind? Dr. Marsha Linehan advises interfering with those ruminations by counting 1-10 ten times. The first time through, pause after one. The second time through, pause after two, and so on. This technique makes it impossible to worry by occupying your mind. Another tip is to splash cold water on your face. Or, label your worry as solvable or insolvable. If insolvable, go deep into the worst thing that could happen and imagine coping with it.

5. Other Sound Strategies – Get more balanced exercise. Limit caffeine later in the day. Keep your bedroom cold, dark, and quiet to enhance some good zzzzs. And, avoid using alcohol to fall asleep (alcohol actually interferes with REM sleep).

The Pysching Team – Dr. Chelsi Day and 20 volunteer psychologists and sport performance consultants offer you mental strategies before, during, and after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Marathon & 1⁄2 Marathon.
Launched at our event in 2013 by Dr. Chelsi Day, the Psyching Team has worked with more than 600 individuals, groups of athletes and workshop participants. Runners and walkers have expressed specific interest in learning about relaxation and setting realistic goals as well as ways to mentally prepare for race day.

It’s time for Spirit Award Nominations!

We are in search of registered race participants who are overcoming major obstacles while training for the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon.

“The Spirit Award is a way for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon to recognize individuals who inspire and embody perseverance and strength. They are a testament to our sport and this event and it’s always an incredible privilege to celebrate them and their accomplishments.” - Darris Blackford, Race Director.

To nominate an individual for the 2014 Spirit Award, please email by Monday, Aug. 25 with the following information:

  • The nominator’s name, phone number and email address,
  • The nominee’s name, phone and email address;
  • A 200-word-or-less description of why that person deserves to be recognized

Each year, the board of trustees of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon names 10 people from thousands of participants for this award. The 2014 event marks the seventh year the award has been given out.

Read about last year’s inspirational winners here.

Columbus Marathon Photo Challenge

Do you know exactly how many weeks until the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon? (If you’ve been counting down obsessively like we have, this should be an easy one.)

The answer? 11 weeks! Or 76 days. Or 1,824 hours. Or … you get the idea.

Even though we can’t be there for all the hours you spend training, we’d love to see how your race prep is going! That’s why you’re invited to participate in our Columbus Marathon Photo Challenge! The rules are simple. Each week, we’ll post a photo “theme” on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. All you have to do is snap a pic that fits the theme and post it with the hashtag #CMphotofinish!

Think you’re up for the challenge? See if you can post at least one photo for each week! Check out the image below to see which themes are coming up.

Photo Challenge

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and make sure to use the hashtag #CMphotofinish so we can see your progress! We’re looking forward to all of your photos! 

Suffering is fun?

This post is the third in a series of guest posts by Eric Motter. Read his first and second in the series. Check back every few weeks to read more about his journey as a Nike-sponsored athlete and his marathon training progress.

“This is supposed to be fun. I want you to suffer.”
- My longtime friend Randy “Bones” “Benedict, a.k.a. Nurse Ratched, June 30, 2014

Other than trying to push myself too hard too early, my training had been going well. There were a few minor bumps in the road, and the threat of vomit in every humid run, but all in all I felt like I was progressing. Then I hit mid-June. My easy runs were still okay, but anything at race pace was brutal. I felt like my legs were so heavy I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, and the humidity wasn’t helping things. I was sweating so much that I started to do my post-run stretches in my basement or on my driveway so my sweat wouldn’t ruin our bedroom carpet. Sorry about that visual.

I went back to Second Sole to see Bones at the end of June, completely dejected and feeling like a 2-hour half marathon might be out of reach for me. Bones saw the despair in my eyes and declared psychological warfare for the first three weeks of July.

“It’s all in your head,” Bones told me. “We’re going bare bones.” I’m not sure if that pun was intended or not. “No more GPS. No more watch on your wrist when you run. Just listen to your body and get your head in tune with your running.”

If I felt like I was going too fast and was going to bonk, then I should slow down. If I felt like I could push harder, then I should speed up. No more looking adjusting my pace to what the GPS watch was showing. We were going back to the basics.

“This is supposed to be fun. Enjoy yourself,” Bones implored. I’m a pretty metrics-driven guy. As a competitive son of a gun and a math nerd, this willy-nilly approach went against everything I held sacred. But Bones is the expert, so I was willing to give it a shot.

The only exception to the no-watch rule was going to be my speed work, where I would need a stopwatch. Bones assigned me a couple of tough runs – one was five reps of a 2/1/1/30/30/30 (2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy, 1 minute hard, 30 seconds easy, etc.). The other was five reps of 5 minutes hard followed by 3 minutes easy. Knowing I was in a psychologically fragile state, Bones left me with an uplifting thought. “I want you to suffer.”

Well, that made me feel better.

“You’re going to hate me during that speed work.” He was right about that.

Have you seen the footage of Kellen Winslow being carried off the field after the Chargers beat the Dolphins in the 1982 playoffs? That’s how I felt at the end of my speed runs. All the coconut water in the world wasn’t going to replace those lost electrolytes. I made the mistake of doing those runs early in the morning before work, and I may have been delirious in a few of my meetings later in the day. If you see Cigna entering the hamster bicycle helmet business in early 2015, you’ll know it’s because the meeting to make that decision happened on the same day I was doing speed work.

At the end of this week, I’m going to run another timed run to see where I stand less than 90 days out from the race. Here’s hoping Bones was right and it was all in my head. Anything slower than a 9:20 pace for 6 miles will tell me I’m in trouble. Anything faster than that and I’ll feel like I’m in good shape to push harder into the second half of the summer. As always, I’ll keep you posted.


It’s fun for me to do this blog and share my tales of woe and embarrassment with you, but I don’t want to lose sight of the beneficiary of the Columbus Marathon, Nationwide Children’s Hospital. When I’m cursing Bones under my breath and thinking about giving in, I always remember that my role here is a small part of a much bigger thing. I am running this year’s race as a Children’s Champion, raising money to benefit Children’s. If you’d like to be a Children’s Champion, please click here and register. If you’d prefer to donate to the cause without doing the fundraising yourself, you can always donate through my page here. Thanks in advance!

Meet our 5 Columbus athlete ambassadors!

These five inspiring individuals will be representing Columbus across the pond in the Dresden Marathon & Half Marathon on October 19th. This marks the 3rd year that Columbus and sister city Dresden, Germany have participated in an athlete exchange to each city’s respective marathon and ½ marathon.

As a part of the exchange, each athlete will receive free entry to the Dresden race, five nights lodging with a Dresden host family, race day transportation, a reception and sightseeing tour hosted by Dresden city officials and a contribution to travel expenses from Dresden Sister City, Inc.

Congratulations to these athlete ambassadors, who will without a doubt, make Columbus proud!

danielDaniel Conner: Daniel is a Program Administrator in the State of Ohio’s Industrial Commission. He is a former resident of German Village and regularly volunteered during the annual Haus und Garten tour. He began running in 2011 with a 5k, and has since finished six marathons, including the Athens Classic Marathon in Greece, the Columbus Marathon and the Boston Marathon. Daniel was inspired by reading Hans-Dieter Jancker’s article about his experience as a Dresden Ambassador to Columbus in 2013, where he finished first in the same age group and race in which Daniel finished third. We will make sure to get the two together in Dresden! Daniel will run the full marathon in Dresden.

JamieJamie Glavic: Jamie is a museum professional and works in Marketing / Communications at the Ohio History Center in Columbus. She is also co-founder and current president of the Columbus Emerging Museum Professionals, and serves on several other museum and history boards. As an art and history buff, Jamie will feel right at home in Dresden! Jamie lived in Augsburg, Germany, for a while as a kid, when her dad was stationed there. She is hoping that some of her German friends will come to Dresden and either run with her or cheer her on. Jamie will run the half marathon in Dresden.


shakeShekhar Mahajan: Shake is a computer consultant. He moved to the U.S. from Kuwait in 1993 and studied at Franklin University for his MBA. He has visited and lived in numerous countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, but he loves the U.S. best and calls Columbus his home. Shake picked up running again in 2010 after a long pause, and runs 10 to 15 races every year. Shake uses running and his passion for outdoor activities to raise money for multiple charities: he has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for schools in Africa and the Columbus area; and he raises awareness of safe drinking water by running half marathons while carrying a water backpack, and he participates in Pelotonia. Shake will run the half marathon in Dresden.

SarahSarah McQuaide: Sarah is an Online Communications Director for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). She has lived in Columbus most of her life, attended The Ohio State University, and now works for an organization dedicated to furthering the Columbus region. She takes a lot of pride in Columbus and enjoys showing her relatives from Japan her favorite Columbus landmarks when they visit. Sarah has been running for more than 10 years and cofounded the MORPC Running Club with a colleague, where they lead 5 to 10 mile runs around the downtown Columbus area every week. Sarah will run the half marathon in Dresden.

KristaKrista Seibert: Krista is a special education teacher, mother of four, and an avid runner. She has lived in Columbus all her life, and is a well-known face to many in the running community. Krista coached for the Columbus Chapter of Team in Training, a national fundraising group for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for 12 years. She has done the Columbus Marathon 14 times! She considers the Columbus running community her home and the stable element in her life. She is widely known in the local running community for the warm smile she shows people on the trail. Krista will run the full marathon in Dresden.

You’re Invited! RunFest 2014


With just over three months left until the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon, you’re invited to help us kick off training season and start the countdown to October at our 5th annual RunFest! Need convincing to join more than 1,000 runners and walkers at our free event? How about:

  • The chance to meet the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Patient Champions
  • Free food and drinks
  • Marathon and 1/2 marathon training advice from experts
  • Music and entertainment
  • A sneak peek at this year’s race shirts and medal
  • A raffle of amazing prizes

If that’s still not enough to get you excited for Saturday (what?!), we’ll let you in on a secret. You can MEET. MEB.

That’s Meb Keflezighi, the only marathoner in history to win the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon, and an Olympic Medal. We’re thrilled to have Meb join us for this year’s RunFest as our special guest and we need your help to give him a warm welcome to Columbus! Now bust out your calendar and pencil in these details:

  • What: The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon RunFest 2014
  • When: Saturday, July 12, 1 – 4 p.m.
  • Where: Aladdin Shrine at Easton, 3850 Stelzer Road, Columbus, OH 43219
  • Details: A FREE event that features giveaways, sneak peek at this year’s race shirt and medal, booths offering training advice and healthy living tips, free food, the full line-up of Nationwide Children’s Hospital Patient Champions and more! We will also have an engraving service available for 2013 Columbus Marathon & 1/2 Marathon medals to engrave finisher’s name and official time.

Make sure to RSVP for RunFest here and invite your friends, family and followers! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more RunFest details and live updates. We hope to see you there!

Puking is a Badge of Honor

This post is the second in a series of guest posts by Eric Motter. Read his first post here. Check back every few weeks to read more about his journey as a Nike-sponsored athlete and his marathon training progress.


Puking is a badge of honor.
– Eric Motter (That statement probably isn’t true. I just made that up.)

I have a job that demands a lot of time and a fair amount of business travel, so I knew I’d need to maximize the quality of my training time in order to finish the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon in under two hours.

Luckily my buddy Randy “Bones” Benedict – runner extraordinaire and the brains behind Second Sole in Gahanna – has me on a custom training plan. On a weekly basis, Bones has me running 3-4 days, mixing in some yoga and lifting weights to keep me (make me?) strong and limber, which leaves me 1-2 rest days each week. My runs for the month of June have been a mix of easy short runs and paced long-ish runs that combine some easy mileage with a few miles at sub-9:00 pace. My easy runs have been no problem. Lifting has been A-OK. Weekly P90x yoga sessions have kept me strong and loose. But those paced runs make me wish I wasn’t friends with a guy who manages a running store.

A quick quiz: What do all of these things have in common?

  • Launching a visual burp
  • Calling for Earl
  • Chundering
  • Ralphing
  • Yawning a technicolor yawn

If you guessed they were all euphemisms for vomiting, then you’d be partially correct. For full credit you would’ve needed to guess they are all things I came close to doing on several of my long pace runs.

Steve Prefontaine famously ran “to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more.” Maybe I just have too much Pre in me, as I was eager to not only show I had a lot of guts, but also to show everyone what was inside my gut. And yes, I did just compare myself to the grittiest, gutsiest, most legendary American runner ever. I’m sorry, and it won’t happen again.

For the last few weeks have I texted Bones a few pictures of my training notes. My notes detailed what I ate, my pace per mile, how I felt, and whether the temperature was abnormal. The notes were also peppered with a mix of pride and frustration about the fact that I was pushing the pace so hard I needed to walk for a bit mid-run and/or I felt like puking as soon as I finished.

Bones was unimpressed. On my 9:00 pace runs, I was typically in the 8:40-8:47/mile range. “Don’t get too aggressive,” he advised. “Kicking the pace as low as you’re going can be too taxing. It would be better to be a bit slower and maintain your rhythm than to walk.” He avoided comment on my tendency to tiptoe the line between acting like a normal human being and barfing in the neighbor’s lawn at the end of my runs.

The more I think about Bones’ advice, the more I feel like an idiot. It now makes complete sense to me. The race is still four months away, and it’ll be hard to run a sub-2:00 half marathon if I push so hard that I get injured and never even make it to the starting line.

I’ll slow down my runs going forward. My goal for the next few weeks is to ease up and maintain a steady 9:05-9:10 on my pace runs. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

New Course for 2014!

The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon that you have come to know and love just got better! We are very excited to announce a new and exciting course for the 2014 event.

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The 2014 race route features North Bank Park as the hub of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon. The new combined start/finish area, located at Long Street and Neil Avenue,will provide increased safety and convenience for participants and spectators. This singular easy-to-navigate location will include pre- and post-race activities, restrooms, gear check, informational displays, entertainment offerings and even spectator seating, all in one place!

The race day experience will continue to improve with route changes through two historic Columbus neighborhoods. The new course will now go along 18th Street in Olde Town East, and 3rd Avenue in Harrison West.

With all of these new changes, comes the most exciting element of all – the Marathon route will now have participants pass by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where the energy will be, without a doubt, electric.

But fret not, athletes, much of the 13.1-mile ½ Marathon and 26.2-mile Marathon courses remain the same and the Marathon route will continue to go through Ohio Stadium for the third straight year.

To view a detailed map of the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon & ½ Marathon, click here, or visit our Pinterest page for an interactive map featuring hot spots along the course!

Make sure to follow us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to receive course updates and more marathon information!