7 Tips to Mentally Prepare For a Marathon
The London Marathon is the one event which inspires so many of us to dust off our running shoes, lose a few pounds and raise money for charity.
For runners preparing for a marathon, congratulations. You’ve done all of your training; you’ve bought and worn in your running gear; and you’ve even given up alcohol for a month before the big day; but… are you mentally prepared to face over 26 miles of hard graft?
Whilst we all know that the physical aspect is an important part of your marathon preparation, the psychology of marathon running can be an often overlooked subject, which leads to runners facing their biggest fear: hitting the metaphorical wall.
It’s also easy to only think about miles and fitness - but what about the race day itself? What’s your plan, and what steps should you be taking to ensure that you manage to go the distance?
With this in mind, we spoke to a range of our expert speakers to give you some ideas to prepare your mind and soul, as well as your body, for the ultimate test of endurance.
Helping you along the way are Jamil Qureshi, a master of performance-enhancing psychology; Olympic star Sally Gunnell who ran the marathon back in 2007; cultural architect Javier Bajer; and Claire Lomas, who, after being paralysed from the chest down in a horse-riding accident, was the first person to walk the marathon in a bionic suit.
We also checked in with Speakers Corner MD Nick Gold, who has run the London Marathon, for his advice too.
Read on for the 7 top tips that will help you get to that finish line!
Break it down
It can be overwhelming to think about the race as a whole, so, first, break it down into what you can mentally manage.
As Jamil Qureshi says, ‘All great achievements are the result of many small achievements. With any endurance sport, it is important to break things down to component parts. It is easier to motivate ourselves in short periods than one long spell. Look to break down your run into manageable chunks. These don’t need to be measured in distances (metres or yards). You could break it down by the monuments you’re looking forward to seeing as you run around London. Some people find it easier to gamify the event to distract from the task at hand.’
Claire Lomas points out that she used the next lamp-post as her goal – no small distance when you take into account that it took Claire 17 days to complete the course. Her advice - ‘’think about short goals rather than the whole lot - even when training, celebrate achieving your goal for the day, and don’t put it into the context of 26 miles’’.
Claire Lomas walked the marathon in 17 days in her bionic suit
Banish negative thoughts
Olympic Gold medallist Sally insists, "You have to banish negative thoughts. Don’t think about how ‘this is going to hurt’, but, instead, focus on how wonderful you will feel after your achievement."
As Javier Bajer points out, while focussing on behaviours is great, it is essential to be sure to overcome negative beliefs to mentally win your race – take a look at his tips to avoid the 5 most common thinking traps here.
Visualise your race
Jamil states, ‘’To materially accomplish something, we have to mentally accomplish it first. Spend time visualising success. Elite athletes understand that the best practice track or training ground is the one in our mind. Mentally rehearse finishing and the rewards of doing so. We must be motivated by what we wish to achieve, not by what we wish to avoid if we are to optimise our potential.’’
Know your race day routine
You will be calmer on the day if you already have your routine in place. Think about things like: What will your pre-race routine look like? Where are your friends and family going to be along the route? Where is your starting spot? Having all of this planned beforehand will help you to be in a calm space before the starting pistol goes off.
Sally Gunnell, who says that her Olympic warm-ups helped to focus her before a race says, "you will only end up flustered if you don’t know where you need to be and when. Taking time to think through your routine will properly set you up for the miles ahead."
Run your own race
As one of our team members points out, "If it’s your first time running a race, it’s really easy to be overwhelmed and intimidated when you see all these other people at the start line using technology that you haven’t seen before, or doing stretches that look like more like a ballerina’s warm-up – but you have to focus on yourself. It’s the same with training; while you can take on board the advice that people give you along the way, you do need to filter this and decide what works for you."
Claire very much relates, pointing out, "I started off with everyone else on the start line, and then they were all off – within seconds I was on my own!"
So remember: whether you are walking, running, or perhaps hobbling along the course, it’s your race - do it your way.
Be sure to hydrate throughout the race
Sally stresses the importance of being aware of your hydration. "Rehydrate through the race – have your gels, water, and whatever you need prepared, and make sure you have enough. Start thinking about rehydrating around 45 minutes in. It’s so important as, if you hit the wall, it’s too late to do anything about it."
We will end on advice from our very own Nick Gold, who says, "Running the marathon is all in the mind. In one shape or form, anyone can complete the London (or any other) Marathon. It’s about choosing to do it, and just going for it".
It’s your race and your day after all, so make sure that you enjoy it!
If you are interested in any of these speakers, or would like more info., call us on +44 (0) 20 7607 7070 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.