Joan suggested finding other focal points that would be more beneficial to your run. She suggested finding a runner ahead of you to set your eyes on and make it your goal to catch up to and then pass. Then find another runner ahead and repeat the process. Seek, catch-up, pass, and repeat. In 2006, Joan ran part of the NYC Marathon with Lance Armstrong. She said she was worried he wasn't going to make the sub three hour time he desired. She finally told Lance, that he had to forget about the mile markers and focus on the runners ahead if he wanted to cross the finish line in under three hours. He must have heeded her advice. Lance finished with a time of 2:59:36.
Joan also acknowledged the fact that a marathon is a long way to run—further strengthening the bond with the crowd. She suggested breaking the marathon up mentally into segments. She often thinks of hers as an easy 16-mile run, followed by her favorite 10-mile training route. She recommends choosing a segmentation that works for you. You may visualize your favorite 10-miler, 8-miler, 5-miler and then your favorite 5K. Just don't make your segments the mile markers. The combination of visualizing a familiar run and breaking the race into shorter more manageable segments is powerful in fighting off the mental and physical fatigue that marathon runners often experience.
Finding a mantra that's meaningful and powerful to you was another helpful tip that Joan provided. She's had many mantras over the years including "One step at time" and one she borrowed from Bruce Jenner, "Feet don't fail me now!" She stressed that a runner needs to find a mantra that's meaningful and personal that will motivate and inspire during those trying times in a marathon. Joan called marathon running "a metaphor for life," inspiring both the runners and nonrunners in the room. I think that may just be my new mantra, "Marathon running is a metaphor for life."
I've met some famous people over the years, but never a true legend—well, until this past weekend. The thing about the other personalities I've met is that there was no connection. It was fun to meet them, but they remained on that distant pedestal. Joan Benoit Samuelson, however stepped off that well-deserved pedestal we had put her on and shared intimate family photos, childhood memories, and her running achievements. Her down-to-earth feel and welcoming demeanor made several hundred runners, including RunnerDude, feel mighty special.