Dirty Tricks by Jeff Galloway

There are moments in every marathon, usually near the end, when the magic seems to have gone out of your words, and worse, your legs. This opens up a big microphone into which the left brain shouts its messages. You’ve probably heard most of them:

It’s over.
Just walk to the finish.
Slow down; it’ll feel much better.
Stop now and feel great.
Oh, do I feel bad.
I can’t do it today.
(And the worst one of all) Why am I doing this?

It’s time to play some dirty tricks on your left brain. After all, it does the same to you all the time. Almost anyone gets these messages. You’re only in trouble if you listen to them. Dirty tricks distract the left brain so that you can get further down the road. But they can do so much more. As you find a series of creative images that get you into your right brain, you’ll trigger other imaginative thoughts. These may entertain you, but they are most effective when they jump-start right-brain activity, which produces intuitive solutions to problems.

Dirty tricks are merely crazy ideas that can’t be grasped by the left brain because they are not logical. Here are a few ideas that have worked for me:

The giant invisible rubber band
On all marathons, I carry with me this device, which is mounted to my shorts in the small of my back. When someone passes me in the late stages, my left brain explodes with a stream of discouragement: “Look how smoothly he or she is running and how ragged you are.” It’s easy to listen and give in to those logical messages, which are only trying to reduce my effort and slow me down.

Instead, I attack by throwing the giant rubber band over the head of whoever had the audacity to pass me. For a while, the lead may grow. During the next few hundred meters, I fill in a great number of details, such as imagining how the tension on the rubber band is increasing and cutting off the oxygen supply to the brain of the person I have “rubber-banded.” Surely he or she will have to slow down.

At some point I must laugh at myself for such a ridiculous conception. But laughing helps to send me into the right side of my brain, and I relax. Limber legs turn over quicker, and I usually catch up with, or pass, the person who passed me. The giant invisible rubber band has worked again!

The giant hand
The ancient Greeks often imagined that Zeus or another god was helping them. When it becomes tough to go up a hill during those last six miles, call for the giant hand to come in and gently push you up. Most folks find that the hand comes in gently as you straighten up your posture. The support increases as you shorten stride, keep feet low to the ground, and let the feet gently lift off when they are directly underneath you.

Oxygen molecules
The night before a marathon, I pretend to collect several million oxygen molecules in a sandwich bag, which I pin onto my shorts. During the latter stages of the marathon, when the oxygen doesn’t seem to be as abundant, I take off the bag and squeeze it out in front of my mouth or nose. Before squeezing, I exhale every third or fourth breath completely. Just one or two squeezes will last about 100 to 200 meters. The best part of this trick is seeing and hearing the reactions from the people around me in the marathon. If you’re a real salesperson, you may try to make some money from those folks who went out too fast and are now severely oxygen-deprived. Just bring along some extra bags.

Ball-bearing atoms
This is a high-tech right-brain invention that will send you gliding to the finish. As the legs lose their resilience near the finish, you can shake off from your hair millions of atoms that normally act to keep it shiny. As the atoms drop onto your feet, you’ll find that you don’t need to stretch out your stride any more. You glide better through the air and stay more efficient by staying closer to the ground. When you’re losing this effect, shake your hair again. Balding people, like myself, will always appreciate some strategic head shakes from others. A downhill portion of the course will enhance the effect of these virtually invisible ball bearings.

Your “inspiration” shoes
If logistics permit, you might consider changing shoes during the last six miles of the marathon. Both pairs must be broken in, of course. Save your “inspirational” pair for the last part. Just putting them on sends a jolt of invigoration into your feet, up your legs, then through your body and into the right brain. At that point, all types of crazy and innovative things can happen.

The extra-special energy bar
For the marathon journey, you’re not bringing just any energy bar. You spent some time the day before picking the ones with the greatest energy potential and you infused them with even more energy. Handle the pieces of these bars with care as you don’t want to infuse everyone around you. As you chew on each piece and drink water, you feel the energy move from your mouth to your right brain. Then, instantly, it unlocks other pockets of energy that have been hidden until now.

Have fun with these dirty tricks. Since your only constraint is the imaginative power of your right brain, there are no limits to what you can conjure up and unleash when needed.

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