Contrary to popular belief, we all dream. A lot of people think they don’t, but all mammals dream several times during a normal night’s sleep. Dreams can be very short or last as long as a half hour. But we all dream even if the person who is dreaming isn’t aware that they are dreaming.
You may not remember your dreams or remember them as well as others do, but dreaming is a necessary part of the sleep process. Especially for runners.
Believe it or not, runners who dream about running a great race actually might be predicting their success in an upcoming race. That’s right. Having a dream about how well you will do in your next race, actually enhances the chances you will have a good race.
At least that’s the results of a study which looked at whether there’s a relationship between dreaming about running a great 10-K and running one. The study found that runners who practiced visualization and those who kept a training log dreamed much more frequently about their upcoming competitions than those who didn’t keep a log or practice visualization.
At a national championship track meet, the researchers asked nearly 500 runners to answer questions about their running history, demographics and the nature of their dreams. About half of the respondents said they consistently had dreams before their races. And over 90 percent of them, dreamed about having successful races.
How successful? Most of the dreamers reported running faster than the nondreamers. The dreamers also had faster PRs than the nondreamers.
The researchers determined that runners who often reflect upon their races are much more likely to dream about racing and more likely to have a good race when they toe the line.
What does all this mean? The researchers believe that runners who practice visualization and keep a training log are more likely to express their competitive spirit subconsciously in their dreams. They theorize that a successful dream may not be a predictor of success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
This isn’t too surprising. Even though the purpose of dreams still aren’t definitively understood, dreams can make a creative thought occur or even provide a sense of inspiration or motivation.
But simply because you dream of winning an Olympic gold medal or setting a world record in your next marathon doesn’t mean you can make it happen. Sigmund Freud never psychoanalyzed runners (at least I don’t think so), but he did explain dreams as a manifestations of our deepest desires, anxieties, fears.
Even so, most dreams are pretty straightforward and realistic. On occasion, we might dream of having a gold medal placed around our neck but most of our running dreams are about setting a PR or finishing a race or an upcoming workout.
If a certain running dream is a recurring one, it could mean the dreamer has some particular anxiety about an issue related to the dream. The sleeping mind re-enacts these dreams, possibly so the conscious mind can then deal with these issues.
Particularly bad race dreams. You know the ones where you forget to bring your shoes to the starting line or get caught in a traffic jam and miss the start. Or get stuck in a Port-A-Jon. Or clawing your way, on hands and knees, to the marathon finish line.
These dreams, or nightmares, can also be productive—especially the recurring ones—because they highlight a fear or apprehensiveness about an aspect of your running. If you can remember the dream and recognize what it is, you can do something about this fear during or before the actual race.
Once you have overcome this fear—for example, finishing a marathon strongly or getting to the starting line on time—that dream usually goes away.