How to Use Mental Bottles to Believe in Yourself

I have heard about friends dedicating the final miles to loved ones and people who helped them get there. I loved the idea of that, and I believe you should give it a try to see if it helps you, but for me, I just couldn’t get it to work.

But as Team Ice Cream continues to grow, I thought about how they had each prepared me for a part of the race, and if I could focus on them for that part of the race, I would be in a good position those final few miles.

So that is what I did.

Now, first let me say, that I am very fortunate to have had elite fueling bottles, in which I could hold something physical in my hands to remind me of the word. I realize that I am incredibly lucky to have this, and most people will not.

But you can find other ways to do this, which I will explain in a moment.

First, I will tell you how I used this.

As an elite, I get 7 bottles to place around the course. The elite team will drop them off, and they are placed on tables (spread out) at the mile markers they told you they would be. You are given a table number, and order in which your bottle will be on that table.

The rest is up to, to decorate the bottle in a way that you can see it, without making it difficult to grab in passing.

Sarah had bought me some sparkly green tape (one of our traditions for one another), and some diamond stickers to remind me of Steve as she knew he was one of my mantras during a race. How sweet!

I also used yellow tape around them as yellow is my favorite color, and I thought it would stand out.

On each of the bottles, I wrote a word that I wanted to think about from the time I collected that bottle, until the next station along with the name of a person or group who had prepared me for this moment.

So here is how I broke mine down with why I chose that word and group:

From left to right:

Mile 3.3 Present and Fans

That was for you guys.

All those people who wished me luck, took time out of their day to email me, message, tweet, like, anything. I thought about you, and how you really wanted me to succeed. I needed to be present during this race, to remember that this in itself is part of the experience, and I need to take in the sights and people’s faces along the way, not just be so zoned in the entire way that I missed the fun part.

You also had another role, which I will tell you about later.

Mile 7.5 Family and True

This is a race. I have spent hundreds of hours preparing for this moment. I have sacrificed so much to be here, and this is the time I get to prove myself.

But you know what. No matter what happens, I will still be me, and my family would love me no matter what happened in the race. I am still Tina the daughter, sister, niece who they just want to be happy.

I knew that at this point in the race, I would need to stay calm, and remember that there is no need to put pressure on myself if I am too fast or slow at this point, all I can do is my best and be true to who I am.

Mile 10.0 Inspire and Friends

This was for all those people who know me for so much more than being a runner. For those people who think of other words outside of running if you asked them the first word that came to mind, but at the same time, they often tell me that I inspire them to chase their dreams too. When I was in the London marathon the first year, this was one of my favorite moments, when I ran past my friends around mile 10, and they cheered and screamed for me. The second year, thinking about seeing them got me through a bad patch.

I hoped that if I was in a mental freakout thinking about how much longer I had to go, I could think about my friends, and how I had panicked in London early in the race, but I had held it together and run well.

Mile 14.5 Evie and Brave

I knew that around mile 15 would be the time most marathoners start to wonder why they are doing this. The first half of the race is already taking a toll on your legs, but you still have over 10 miles to go. This is the point where you wonder if you will even make it to the finish line, let alone run a fast time.

I knew if I kept Evie on my mind, that she had strengthened me mentally to be ready for this moment, that I would just focus on being brave, trusting that my body will make it through, and cross that line proud of myself for going for it.

She also put this shirt on while I was racing, and told me she would be thinking of me the entire time.

Mile 17.8 Drew and Strong

I don’t think this one really needs too much explanation. I knew around mile 18 would be where I would be starting to break down physically, but the longer I could hold on to good running form, the better off I would be in those final few miles.

Drew made me strong was what I repeated to myself over and over. Reminding me that we did not do all those hours in the weight room to just give it all up now. I also used the trigger words that he had told me; chin tuck, fire those glutes, head on a string.

Mile 20.4 Steve and Hero

There were so many things that came into this one. This was the bottle I knew needed to carry the most meaning. I needed to remember why I was doing this and why I could keep going. From my chat with Bonnie the day before, Be Your Own Hero had become my mantra, and I even wrote EXTRA on my arm, to remind me of what she said about being extraordinary. Hero was the word that spoke to me, but it went one step further.

Ready for the cheese?

My husband, my Steve, he is also my hero. He is the best person in this world, and he had sacrificed just as much as I had to be ready for this race, and I knew that my pain was his pain. I wanted to be a hero for him just like he is a hero for me.

I also put the rings from Sarah all over this bottle to remind me of that.

Mile 23.3 YOU and Heart

I did not intend on taking this bottle, but I knew if I did take it, I was in serious trouble. Thankfully I did not need to, but I wanted to remind myself that if I did need it, I was doing this race for myself, and all I needed to do was run with my heart just like I had put my heart into the rest of the training to get here, in those final few miles and I would be proud.

This was the first time I had tried this tactic, and although in London I took my own gels, and it worked out fine, I think I will be using this tactic again in the future. Remember, you can make your own UCAN gels by concentrating the powder, and mixing them in these bottles.

It helped me to stay in the moment and remember each of the people who had helped me get to the start line, as that is half the battle right?

It helped me to focus on what work we had done to be ready for this race.

And it helped me to take the responsibility off myself, not just for pressure, but to stop feeling sorry for myself, and remember that these people believed in me, and if they believed in me, I should believe in me.

So how can you add this to your mental training?

Okay, so you probably won’t have bottles in your next race, and even if you are not racing a marathon I think this still can work.

Rather than it being a bottle, if you have friends and family, place them at those moments around the course, so when you see their excited faces, it will inspire you to focus on them. You could also have them shout the word you want to associate with them to you.

This also helps keep it interesting, as you are not just repeating one word which becomes stale, but repeating a word for a few miles, saving the most powerful words for the end.

If you do not have friends and family watching, you can write their names on your arms, and vow that every time you take fuel or water, you will look down at your arm and see their name as your focus for the next few miles.

Or you could look for signs within the course.

Watt Avenue just happened to be at mile 20 where they had built a wall. Drew’s last name is Watts, so when I came up to that wall, I told myself that Drew had made me strong enough to smash through the wall.

Look for little details, maybe you run by a restaurant you went with your partner. Once you see that restaurant, you are going to dedicate the next few miles to them.

You can be creative with this in any way you like. And if you need more information or inspiration about what words can inspire you I have a WHOLE module about mental bottle in my Mile 20 Mental Training Course.

This helped me so much, and I hope it can help you too 🙂

What words are calling out to you right now?

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fueling, mental tactics, positive

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  • I love this so much and actually did something similar in my very first half marathon ever! I used a piece of paper, had family and friends write me a message for each mile and I took it out before starting each one and read it for the first time. Now obviously I was running a lot slower and with a lot less determination, but I will never forget that note and I still have it in my gym bag!! I love that you are so grateful for all your support and that it truly takes a village to raise a champion and Tina, you are a CHAMPION!!!! xoxoxo

  • My friends and family motivate me as well but I have never thought to make these bottles. While I’m not an elite so couldn’t use them on course anyways, I think it would be motivational so have it all out there.

  • What a great idea, Tina! I love the way you used those bottles to keep your positivity high. (and I always wondered how the elite bottles worked, so thanks for that explanation too!!)

  • What a great idea! I love having cue words for certain parts of the race. Having those words on bottles would make it easier to remember them during tough portions of the race!

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