You’ve done all the training. You’ve banked a huge number of miles and physically you are totally ready for your marathon challenge. The hard part is over right? Unfortunately many of us have been undone at the last minute by not getting our marathon psychology right.
Marathons take both physical and mental toughness to complete. It is very easy to set out in a negative frame of mind, nervous and not believing on ourselves and expecting to fail.
How your race goes mentally is your choice. You can choose to believe it will go well. You can choose to believe that you can do it. Shut out those internal voices that tell you that you can’t. You absolutely can – it’s just one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward.
Here are some tips for achieving that all important marathon mindset…
1. Remember why you’re running
When you are at the start line remind yourself why you are running this marathon. Is it to raise money for a charity close to your heart? Have you trained to achieve a specific time? Are you running for a sense of personal achievement? Focus on this reason if things get tough. Some people dedicate each mile to a different friend or loved one and think of them during that mile to keep them going.
2. Have a pre-marathon routine
There is a reason that you see sports people keeping to pre-event routines. The footballer that touches his club badge when he runs out of the tunnel. The number of times a tennis player bounces the ball before her serve. These routines are not just superstition, they help the player focus on the moment and calm the nerves. If you feel your nerves creeping in pre-race, having a routine you can focus on may help to stop you panicking.
3. Motivational words
Another great way to keep your mindset positive when the running gets tough is to have your own personal cue words. For my first marathon, I had “Come on kid, this is your dream” written on my arm in sharpie. I’d seen it on a meme earlier in the week and it spoke to me. Whenever I felt myself flagging and thinking in a negative way, I looked at my arm and repeated the phrase in my head. Find a word or phrase that you relate to. It might be something motivational like “I am strong” or it might be a phrase related to your running form such as, “Head up, hips high” to prompt you to snap out of your temporary slump.
Visualisation can be very powerful. Spend some time pre-marathon really thinking about the race. Imagine yourself running strong and passing the famous landmarks before crossing the finish line with a big smile. Really focus on how you will feel.
5. Break the distance up
There are no two ways about it 26.2 miles is a very long way. Despite all the training, the distance stretching out before you on the start line can feel overwhelming. Mentally it can really help to break the distance down into smaller chunks and simply focus on each one at a time. Some people like to break the distance into 10ks, others prefer to just focus on the single mile that they are in. The key is to celebrate achieving the distance you choose when you complete it and then let it go. If it was a bad mile once it’s finished it is gone. Don’t spend time and energy worrying about it, focus on the new fresh mile ahead.
6. Be positive and Believe!
Whatever strategies you choose try to stay positive. Even if your training hasn’t gone to plan you are about to run a marathon and only a tiny percentage of the population can say that! The most important thing to remember is that you can do it. Believe in yourself. You are a marathon runner!