The Mental Side of Training, and the Power of Positivity

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Last Updated on October 26, 2020 by Cory Kawa

As I reflect on 2019 and my surprising marathon PB at the 2019 Waterfront Marathon, the part that I’ve always struggled with is how do I ever replicate that success? Or, why was I even successful?

My hope has always been that I carried a high level of physical fitness into the marathon. That although I didn’t feel like I was replicating the behaviours of someone who wanted to be successful, that my fitness, combined with my best taper ever, combined to drive a surprising and highly successful race day performance.

My fear has always been that my fitness had nothing to do with it. That instead, it’s me and my own fears, uncertainties, and doubts that have been holding me back.  

As I discussed in my 2020 Marathon Recap, in 2019, I didn’t expect to do well. I tried to transfer to the half, it was too late and instead decided that on race day, rather then run the full, I would short turn and finish with an unofficial half.

Instead, I came out hard, and by the turn, I was on pace to easily set my second fastest half marathon time. Not only that, I still felt amazing and decided who cared. I came into the day not expecting to do well, so even if I had to take a cab back at the thirty-kilometre mark, the day would still be a success.

The part that still fascinates me is I didn’t crash, finishing with a PB of 3:17:09, well beyond my wildest dreams.

Now the big question, was it the being in way better shape than I ever could have imagined, or was it, for the first time in perhaps forever, I was running without fear.

Fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of suffering, and that by running without fear, I was able to push harder and longer than I ever could have imagined.  

And to be completely honest, as much as it scares me, I think that’s it, that figuring out the mental aspect of suffering will be my biggest key to success, both now and forever in the future.

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor

That’s all a very long preamble to say. It’s funny how life hits you with the right tools, right when they’re most needed.

Late last week, I finished 80/20 running, where I learned about the importance of high training volumes, combined with polarized training, that ideally targets 80% at an easy effort and 20% at a threshold or better effort.

This week, I was searching high and low for my next read, and with that, I picked up “Let Your Mind Run”, by Deena Kastor, a book that’s sat in my Kobo for a long time, a book that I’ve never got around to reading because really, to me, it sounded like it may be just a bit too spiritual for my taste.  

When I started the book, I didn’t know who Deena was, what her book was about, only that it was another running/endurance book, that I’ve read pretty much all of them, and at least it’s some new content.

Although I’m only partway through it, what I didn’t expect, was a really well-written book about her struggles from childhood prodigy, and taking that natural ability to the next level, ultimately becoming the holder of numerous American records, and winner of the bronze medal at the 2004 Athen’s Olympics. 

Beyond that, the part that fascinates me most is one of the most critical aspects of Deena’s journey from prodigy to champion, the power of positivity, and how changing perspective was one of the key drivers of her success.  

For her, positivity meant not just overcoming the obvious, like I hate running into the wind, but also focusing on the negative thoughts that creep into every aspect of our day, such as a bad customer experience while waitressing, a broken car, etc. 

As you’ve seen from some of my writing, I too struggle mightily with these same challenges.

What worked for Deena was killing these negative thoughts whenever they entered her head, forever and always. That by never allowing herself to be negative, her thinking began to shift, and that gradually this focus on positivity carried through to all aspects of her life, killing her fears and driving her successes.

Final Thoughts on Positivity

As I write this, I am also reminded of another blog post I came across this week, by Colin, at, where he said…

I also made the decision to speak from a position of positivity and commitment and community. But then something strange happened. The sort-of me voice that I chose to use in the Team Colin blog informed my actual real-me (just Colin) persona, and I became a source of positivity, commitment, and community.

Post 113. Team Colin on Bicycling.Com

FYI, If you haven’t checked out Colin’s blog I highly encourage you to do so, he’s an excellent writer.

Perhaps, there’s something to this.  

Although I don’t consider myself a negative person, I’ve got some work to do. Hey, you can even look at my most recent post on the 2020 Virtual Marathon, where I talk about hating the wind for evidence.  

Also, could it truly be that easy? Could it be as easy as just looking for the positive in everything negative?

I guess we will soon find out.

Thanks for reading, 



    1. That’s very true, I feel like I self-sabotage in training and races, by telling myself the things I can’t do, or where it will be hard, then making them true. Would welcome the opportunity to connect and discuss more, DM me.

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