Co-authored by Becky Hodgson, Endurance Trainer at Hall Training Systems.
Running a marathon is sometimes seen as the ultimate challenge in fitness, especially for people who run just for fun. People often spend ages planning a running programme, and prepare really well for the physical challenge that's ahead, but not so many people think about how they'll cope mentally during the 26 miles.
I always think completing a marathon is 80% physical and 20% mental, and if that 20% isn't there, it's unlikely you'll finish! Your mind can be your own worst enemy, especially when you hit the wall and need to find the motivation to push through. So how do you make sure your mind is on your side when you're at the start line? Here are my five top tips to make sure you can push through:
1. My number one top tip, and maybe quite an obvious one would be to have a great playlist. I find this helps me to get lost in my thoughts and not the miles. But make sure your ipod is fully charged, there's nothing worse than it running out of battery half way through! It may also be helpful to choose songs with a steady beat, at around the pace you want to run at. That way, when you're struggling you can concentrate on matching your paces to the beat and it will be easier to keep going.
2. Try not to take too much note of each mile marker. Don't think about how many you've done or you have to go just take each mile one at a time. Try and think of it as 26 short sections rather than one long one, that way every mile becomes a fresh challenge and a fresh start.
3. Keep your eyes up front...not on the watch. Watch checking is fine but give yourself target points for when to check. Every five songs can work well as a marker, or perhaps when you've been past several mile markers. Continuously checking will make time seem slow, like watching paint dry. Be strict with yourself and you'll be surprised what great motivation it can be when you look down at your watch and you're nearer the end or making better time than you thought! It also helps to pick a point on the horizon, run to that, and then choose a new point.
4. Push through the wall. The wall is a purely mental obstacle and it may well require all of your motivation to push yourself through. Make a list in your head of why you are running the marathon and repeat it to yourself. It could be for personal satisfaction, or to raise money for a particular charity. I like to wear something that reminds me of this charity or person, for example a ribbon on my wrist or a bracelet that is connected to my charity. Just looking at it occasionally can increase my motivation.
5. When you reach that half way point and you realise you have to do it all over again, think back to all the miles you have completed during training. This may well be somewhere in the 100s. It may be 13.1 miles more to go, but it's the last 13.1 miles of all those you have already completed so you can give it everything!
Nothing will beat the feeling of satisfaction you feel when you cross the finish line, and making sure you're mentally prepared will make the run not just more achievable, but more enjoyable too!
This blog post first appeared here.
*Image courtesy of Barry Cornelius