Did the London Marathon leave you feeling inspired and motivated to take part in a marathon yourself? It’s recommended that you train for 6 months, as an average, to be race fit, although, let’s face it, it’s never too early to start. Here are a few tips to get you mentally prepared for your own marathon.
Whether you’re new to running, a regular runner or you haven’t run in a long time, completing your marathon is going to be both challenging and rewarding. The buzz that you will feel as you cross that finishing line is like no other. However, it’s a long journey to get there and is hard work, both physically and emotionally.
People expect running a marathon to be challenging, and expect to have to put in excessive amounts of physical training. What often goes unprepared, is the mind, which is actually equally, if not more important than training the muscles. Starting a training plan is the easy bit. Remaining motivated to stick to that plan week in week out, through the cold, wet and wind, is more challenging. What’s more, using that training to get you through the race day itself can prove even more of a challenge.
Some of the main factors are:-
Visualisation is a key tip. Use mental imagery to watch yourself running the marathon. Visualise yourself crossing that finish line and use the voice in your head to encourage you and offer positive affirmations as you run.
Motivation, self-discipline and time management are all key players in your mental ability to be able to run this far. There will be many days when you’re too busy, too tired, or simply cannot be bothered. These days are challenging. What harm can missing one training session really do, right? In truth, probably very little, but what about the next time you don’t feel up to it, or the time after that? My advice…get up, get out and get going. Make not running not even an option. Even once you are out and running, some days will be easier than others. You may feel every muscle in your body screaming at you to stop, but it’s up to you to allow that inner voice to take over, to keep those legs moving and stay disciplined enough to finish your run.
Goal setting is a top tip used by most runners. Try to be realistic and specific with goal setting. Your intimate goal may well be to simply finish the marathon. Try being more driven than this. Perhaps aim to complete the marathon in under a set amount of time. The key to goal setting is to make it achievable, but also challenging. Getting the balance just right should help to keep you motivated. Write your goal down and share it with friends and family to keep you driven.
Smaller goals whilst you are running can be important too. You need to stay completely present, so worrying that you still have over 20 miles to go until you finish the race is never going to help your mindset. Instead, focus on the present mile, or the fact that you are almost quarter of the way there. Continue talking yourself through with these baby goals until you have completed the race.
You will likely hit, what runners refer to as, the wall at some point during the marathon. The phase where you literally feel you cannot go on. The most important part of dealing with the wall is knowing that it will happen and knowing that it will pass. You are not going to struggle throughout the rest of your race as much as you are struggling now. Just push through and keep your head up.
A huge factor for any athlete to consider during training for any event is nutrition. What you eat has a huge effect on your mood and the way your body can perform. Carbohydrates are essential for slow release energy, and it’s important these are consumed weeks before a big run. Your body, however, cannot store enough carbohydrates to keep you going for a marathon. This is the reason athletes often consume gels; it provides your muscles with carbs, slowing down the release from your fuel stores. Be sure not to overdo it though, as too much gel or too many calories when running can give you stomach problems. It’s also vitally important to keep yourself hydrated; when exercising for longer than 60-90 minutes your body will struggle to continue without hydrating. Again, don’t overdo it – too much can be as dangerous as too little. Just take small sips at regular intervals.
Shout About It
Don’t be afraid to admit how proud you are of yourself. Share your progress and mileage on Facebook. Shout to the world about what you’re doing because you are doing a great job and you have already achieved so much. Put a smile on your face, even when it hurts, to help pull you through and try to enjoy yourself. Visualise how proud you will be when you cross that finishing line and keep aiming for it. Watch yourself in your minds eye putting on a great performance, strong strides, head lifted, not looking at the floor.
And just keep running!!