Mind Over Marathon - How Your Attitude Affects Your Outcome

Your mind can defeat you - if you let it

Your mental attitude will make a huge difference in any race, but in particular when running a marathon.  If you let it, your mind can invent all sorts of reasons why you may not make it to the finish line but you can overcome those negative thoughts with a few simple steps.

Break it down into manageable chunks

If you just think about the big picture - that there are 26.2 miles between you and the finish line - you can easily become overwhelmed by how far you have to go.  If you break it down into segments, such as five x  5 mile training sessions with a 1.2 mile run to 'stretch out' and cool down, you can focus on each segment separately, making it seem more manageable.

It can help to have a different goal for each segment, such as managing your way through the starting crush and settling in to a steady rhythm for your first 5 miles.  Maybe for the second section, you will aim to achieve your planned pace, for the third looking out for landmarks, enjoying the crowd, and so on.  By taking each segment as it comes, you will be able to 'tick off' each one you complete and then, and only then, set about the next phase.

Believe you can do it!

Visualise the image of you, yes that's YOU doing this!  You will have had ups and downs during your training but you kept going because this is where you wanted to be at this moment.

Think about the ‘why’ – your reason for doing this?  Is it to achieve a PB, prove something to yourself, raise money for a worthy cause, or just the glory of having made it round?  If you hit a rough patch, remember your ‘why’ to give you the motivation to keep putting one foot after the next, and don‘t forget, you‘re not alone in hitting a rough patch – they happen to everyone at some point.

Work your way through the rough patch, accept it, keep going forward even if you slow down for a while and remember this is YOU doing something you at one time considered you couldn't do.  You have already run further than you were once able to.  Try to focus on keeping a smooth style, think only about the next few hundred metres at a time.  You can run to that next lamppost or corner can't you?  Whatever comes after that you'll deal with when you get there!

Be realistic about your time

You don't need to obsessively keep an eye on your watch if you are running to complete the distance, just check your progress every few miles.  If you want to achieve a certain time goal, have a good idea of your split times, and monitor them sensibly in view of how you feel and prevailing conditions.

For example, if you get stuck in the crowd for the first few miles you will invariably be behind the schedule you have set, but for a reason beyond your control so do not worry about it.  As the pack thins out you will be able to get back on track so in the mean time don't stress or beat yourself up about it and save your energy for the moment you can surge ahead.

Be sensible about injuries

There's no point making an injury worse by trying to run through the pain.  There will always be other chances to complete the marathon, but unfortunately, you have only got the one body so listen to it.

Similarly don't get caught up in the excitement and try to go off too fast at the start: know your plan and stick to it and the finish line will turn up at the end of that last 1.2 mile cool down segment.

Enjoy yourself!

Running the marathon is a fantastic experience, I should know as I completed the New York Marathon in 2009.  Take the time to soak up the atmosphere and really make the most of what you are participating in it will make crossing the finish line even more worthwhile.

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