You’ve got the gear, stuck to a complex diet and done the training, but now it’s time to prepare your mind.
Running a marathon is of course physically demanding and putting the hours into training and getting in shape is without a doubt a necessity. However, it’s just as important to ensure you are mentally equipped for the 26.2 mile race too.
A few days prior to the race it’s vital to get yourself into a solid state of mind, a marathon can be a lonely place at times, not to mention exhausting and testing. The key factor is to ensure you don’t lose sight of why you signed up to compete. Whether it’s to raise money for a charity that’s close to your heart, push yourself to the next level, or achieve a lifetime ambition, it’s paramount to keep these thoughts at the forefront of your mind. This will help keep motivation high too.
Incorporate prepping your mind into your training regime. List at least three positive thoughts that will spur you on to keep running even when things start to get tough. Work on keeping your mind distracted. Make a list of things to purposefully mull over whilst you’re running. This could be anything from planning a holiday to finding a way to manage your finances.
Create a playlist or download a series of podcasts that can act as your source of entertainment. Bear in mind though that not all marathons, or races, permit the use of headphones. If they do allow them, ensure each of your practice runs involve listening to music or podcasts too so you get used to the feel of the headphones, and get an idea of what you prefer listening to.
Familiarise yourself with the designated refreshment stations, including where they will be and how many the route will have. Having a clear roadmap of places where you’ll be able to grab an energy drink and a quick breather will also aid you in powering through to the next stage of the marathon.
The first quarter of the race will probably be a bit of a breeze on both your body and mind. The adrenaline will have kicked in, people will be cheering and you’ll be running pretty comfortably. However, as the miles clock up you may find boredom and tiredness make an appearance. Plan for this. Ensure to get a decent night’s sleep the night prior and, if possible, travel to the location of the marathon the morning before, to ensure you’re not rushing around on race day.
Keep track of how many miles you’ve ran and how many are left. Counting as you’re running is not only therapeutic, but will also act as a great morale and motivation boost when you start getting into double figures. If you can, in your head, try and figure out at each stage what percentage of the marathon you’ve got left to go (but if maths gets you in a twist stay clear!).
Ask your family and friends to stand at the quieter points of the route as this is when you’ll need the most support. Naturally people will be stood near to the main landmarks and lots of people who live in nearby villages will come along to cheer on passers-by, so it’d be a great help to have your fans positioned at the posts where you may only have our moo-tivational cow cut outs to keep you moving!
Finally, set yourself a goal that is achievable. Ambition is great but if you set your sights too high you could be faced with disappointment. Attainable goals are much more satisfying, first hour completed at your perfect pace? Tick! Managed to pass the high fiving vicar and secure a coveted hand slap? Double tick!
Your mind is a powerful tool and when it’s just you and the road keeping focused, positive and motivated will prove just as important as being in tip top shape.