Whether you are readying yourself for your first Marathon or your 10th – 26.2 miles is a mental battle as well as a physical one.
Here are our top 10 pieces of advice for Monday 1 May:
1. Think positive! Your critical inner voice determines how you approach things so you need to remind yourself that you WILL be relaxed, confident, enjoy yourself and run the very best you can!
2. Visualise. Imagine yourself crossing the finish line. Believe in yourself and in your minds eye, see yourself physically stepping across the finish line in Ormeau Park. When we imagine things we are actually rehearsing them internally and our brains then recognises this, priming us to deal with the situation whenever it arises.
3. Practise the good and bad. Imagine yourself running calmly and then imagine dealing with the more stressful elements of the race too. Then imagine being able to overcome those moments by breathing and setting yourself small manageable goals.
4. Emotions. Own your emotions! You are bound to wake up on Monday morning with an elevated heart rate, clammy hands and your head spinning with all the thoughts of what the day ahead will bring. Physiologically, nervousness is almost identical to feeling excited, so if you are experiencing these feelings call them excitement and make them positive which will give you energy and heightened anticipation ahead of your Mencap Marathon Challenge!
5. Routines. Keep you regular pre-race routine the same today as any other day. You will feel more comfortable and confident by having this consistency and association with a regular routine.
6. Small Goals. When you are running, don’t think too far ahead. A lot of people will run the first mile and then think “Oh no! I’ve still got 25 miles to go!!”. Even with all the positive thinking, this doesn’t help your mind get into the correct zone. You need to think in the present and focus on the smallest goals; the next mile, next lamppost, the next water station, the next cheering station – focus on one and then when you achieve that, focus on the next and so on – small manageable goals which keep you in the moment and keep anxiety and any negative feelings at bay.
7. Process not outcome. Winners don’t think about winning, they think about performing and putting in a winning performance. Each person taking on the Marathon will have their finishing medal in their minds eye. So the process of achieving that could be maintaining running without having to walk for example or it could be focusing on a time. You are in control of your body and the process of running the Marathon so focus on your rhythm, your movement, your breathing and your targets and take it one section at a time.
8. Look up and smile J People tend to look down at the ground when they are running but you need to look up and use your peripheral vision and SMILE! You are running because you want to challenge yourself and have fun so smile and people will smile with you.
9. This is not the end! Don’t make the Marathon your final goal. Quite often people will have a goal and then once they have achieved that there is a fleeting feeling of enjoyment but then a deflated feeling because there is nothing else to achieve. Make the Marathon your stepping stone – so if you’ve walked the 8 miles, maybe you could do the Fun Run next year or run a leg in the Relay or if you’ve completed the Marathon solo, maybe you want to improve your PB next year or run another Marathon … but set yourself another goal before you run on May Day so that your Marathon Challenge is a stepping stone to something else and this will help your mind focus and also mean all your training and hard work is not just for one thing.
10. You’re Amazing! If the worst happens and you are injured or have to pull out of the race – think positively! Focus on what you achieved so far and not what you haven’t. If you manage 23 miles that’s 23 more than you would’ve done if you hadn’t challenged yourself and is something that is truly amazing. Top performers look at these unforeseen issues as learning experiences and in that way they are turned into positives. So if you were doing everything all over again, what did you learn? What would you do differently? If your mind starts looking for answers instead of focusing on the negatives, look at what you did well and did right and where you could improve next time and focus on solutions which means you are less likely to go wrong again.