Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Possibility Thinking: How I Went From 2:43 to 2:19 in The Marathon

Possibility thinking is the name of the game when it comes to running faster times in our sport. You have to believe that the impossible is possible. It may sound cliche but it is the truth.

possibility thinking

I was once a 2:43:36 marathoner. My debut marathon was the 2002 New York City Marathon. I got call from the US Army World-Class Athlete Program director asking I wanted to compete.

The Navy was funding the entire trip to Manhattan so figured why not give the marathon a try. There was a catch. The Armed Forces marathon team I was a part of was to start in last place (32,189th).

The team was not permitted to start until every runner had crossed the finish line. We then were allowed to begin. I finished as the team’s top finished in 253rd place with a time of 2:43:36.

Why Probability Thinking Matters

We all have a choice in life. We either take action on those choices or we choose to think we are not capable. One of the reasons why I created rundreamachieve was to help runners overcome their doubts.

God gave me a gift to run. It was something I found that I was good at and loved. What I have found out as I have progressed in this sport is this. There is more joy in helping others than just how fast we run.

Everyone wants to run a fast time, complete their first marathon many desire to break the 3 hour marathon barrier. How do we do it? Possibility thinking. Our faith determines how successful we will become in this sport.

Middle to long-distance running demands a lot out of us. You have to time manage well. If you want to break the 4 hour marathon it takes work. Perhaps you want to learn how to run a faster 5K. All of it takes commitment.

How To Be A Possibility Thinker And Run Faster

  1. Focus on what you can control

There is no one that doesn’t run into roadblocks. How you handle situations is going to affect you. If it isn’t something in your control, let go of it. I do understand this is easier said than done at times but critical for success.

You cannot control the weather but you can control how much you sleep at night. Additionally, we all have control of what we put into our bodies. These small but important factors can impact your athletic performance.

Focus on what is important and what you have control over. Disregard the rest.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others

I ran into this trap years ago worrying about other runners in the race. All you have control over is yourself. You can’t control how fast someone else runs. If they are competitive then you have to do the work in order to compete.

It takes an enormous amount of mental energy being concerned about other athletes. Don’t focus on what others are doing. Stay relaxed, focused and driven toward your goals. You and I are not Kenyans but guess what? They are no different than you and I.

They put one foot in front of the other and bleed red like you and I. These incredible athletes are no different. They hurt, have feelings and bad races. What makes them different is how they handle their losses. Be the best you can be and work on strengths and weaknesses.

The Power of Belief

3. Visualize what you want

I envisioned breaking the 2:22:00 marathon barrier from 2002 to 2007. It was the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials “B” standard time. Furthermore, it was also the time I needed to run to be considered a legitimate member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program.

Possibility thinking was the reason I dropped my time from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. You have to spend your time envisioning what others say you are not capable of. It is important to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. There is a massive difference between interest versus commitment.

Commitment is what possibility thinkers thrive on. They are not interested in being interested. Their commitment level is sky high and their results show it. You cannot bitch, whine and complain when you have a bad result either which brings me to my next point.

4. Learn to get over failures quickly

The quicker you learn to do this the better. This is not easy but important. If you have a bad race write down the good things that happened. What did you learn from the race? What could you have changed to make it a better performance?

Plan Your Work & Work Your Plan

Don’t dwell on it long. Possibility thinking is about taking note of the good and the bad in any situation and moving on. You cannot go back and change the past but you do have a choice in what you do in the future. The best thing I learned from the world-class Kenyans is this. Fail fast and get over it just as quickly.

The Kenyans have a different mindset. I remember being at the airport talking with a Kenyan who competed with me in a race. He had run a 2:41 marathon and was already discussing that he would one day break 2:12. It was a matter of only a few hours later he was already motivated to train.

Now that is a possibility thinker.

5. Write down your goals

It is powerful to have daily reminders of what you are working for written down. These small reminders keep us motivated on the task we are working toward. You can also make a vision board of things you want.

It could be places you want to visit, specific times you see yourself running or losing weight. Additionally, pictures hook the mind. It forces you to see or read something you have planned you want to do.

Thoughts on magnetic and have a deal of power. I knew I was going to one day break the sub-2:22:00 marathon. It wasn’t an “if” but a “when”. Be certain with what you desire. It must be a white hot burning desire that you are going to have what you seek.

Surround Yourself With Possibility Thinking

6. Watch less television and news

The average American is watching 5 to 6 hours of television per day. Can you imagine the amount of non-sense people in this country and around the world consume each day? Why not read a book, listen to a podcast or audiobook in your car.

One of the best things you can do as athlete is cut out the noise in your life. Let go of the news and talking heads. Exchange that hot mess for something positive. Start a blog about running. Did you know it only costs $3.95 with Bluehost to get started?

These are small but powerful changes you can make in your life. The media does an outstanding job of keeping people scared, depressed and entertained. Ask yourself when the last time any of it put money into your bank account or improved your health?

Could a good book help? How about a great conversation with a friend, family member or co-worker? Possibility thinkers don’t have time for the non-sense and drama.

How Did Possibility Thinking Get Me Under The 2:20 Marathon Barrier

7. Extreme focus

You have to have a burning desire for success. There were a lot of changes I had to make to go from being a 2:43:36 marathoner to running a sub-2:20 marathon time.

There can be zero doubt that what you want is going to happen. You never want to hold on to a bad race or negative thought long. I failed twice prior to running 2:19:35. I flew to Duluth Minnesota to compete in the 2007 Grandmas Marathon.

The positive? I set a small PR running 2:40:02 and hit half-way in 1:10:29 which, at the time, was a PR for the half-marathon for me.

The two negatives were I didn’t meet the 2:22:00 time standard I needed and the US Army World-Class Athlete Program wanted better.

How did possibility thinking help? I got over it quick because I had to. I was focused on getting a result, not on dwelling on what others wanted. A few months later in September of 2007 I set a new half-marathon best of 1:07:06.

Cha-Ching!

The half-marathon I ran at the Philadelphia Distance Classic gave me the confidence that I could do it. I flew to Chicago the next month and again missed the 2:22:00 time running 2:51:51. It was the hottest temps in the history of the race.

I hit the first half-marathon point in 1:11:12 and wanted to drop out. It was a challenge to finish but got through it. Again, didn’t meet the standard but I remained positive. It was just a matter of time.

Obviously, there was more to running under the 2:20 marathon barrier than just the mental piece. Possibility thinking was a very large piece of the process though.

The speed workouts, long runs below 5:30 mile pace, proper rest and nutrition were also important. I cover all the specific details of how I did it in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. If you have as a goal of ever breaking the 3 hour marathon definitely check it out.

The Power of Possibility Thinking

I arrived into Sacramento for the 2007 California International Marathon. I brought along a new half-marathon personal best of 1:07:06 and a sizzling 2:40:02 marathon PR with me.

The problem was I missed the 2008 USA Olympic Trials B standard at the Chicago Marathon a few months prior. The 2008 USA Olympic Trials were held in November, the month before the 2007 CIM marathon.

There is something else possibility thinkers stay focused on. Never let go of the perfect opportunity. I ended up running 2:19:35, finishing as the top American and in 4th place overall. Possibility thinking was the direct result of not holding on to past failures.

This post is just a few reminders of what it takes to make it to the next level. Don’t focus on past hurts or trials long. If you have a bad race or workout write down what went right and wrong. Correct where things didn’t go as planned and move on.

You have no control of something that happened in the past. There is control and possibilities for the future. Possibility thinking creates our reality. Running demands this of us. It takes an enormous amount of work to create a masterpiece in middle to long distance running.

Positive thinking will produce what you want if you get rid of any negativity in your life. Lose the media talking heads and replace it with an audiobook or time with loved one. Think about what you want out of your upcoming race when you are out training.

Make sure to visit the RunDreamAchieve Academy. We’ll be continuing to add new courses for runners who want to take their fitness and running to the next level.

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