Marathons are run in your mind. You have to believe, truly believe, that you can do it, that you have those 26.2 miles in you. It's a head game.
When I've trained for marathons in the past I've had the comfort of knowing that I can stay on my feet for 20-odd miles, but this time things are going to top out somewhere between 13 and 16 miles, which means I need to believe even more than ever. I need to trust my training and know that I can do it, which isn't easy. There's been times in this training cycle where I've really struggled, and days when I've felt like nothing was coming together. Doubts about my ability have clouded my mind, and even worse ego has bubbled up. Ego that tells me if I don't PB I'll have failed, even though this marathon isn't an A race, but a piece in a bigger puzzle that will culminate in an ultra, but some days it's a struggle to remember that. Come race day I need my mind to be in a good place, I need to believe.
Mantras, positive affirmations and distraction have all be the ways I've got my mind in a good place both before and during races. I remind myself to 'be brave' and that I can 'do hard things' (both mantras that got me through my MSc as well as numerous races), I tell myself to 'trust my training' and that 'this is what I've worked for'. I breath, down regulating to calm my nervous system. In the race I'll dedicate my miles to special people I can't let down, I pick people off and listen to music and podcasts to distract my mind.
What works for me might not work for you, so I picked the brains of some of my favourite runners and asked them how they keep a positive mental attitude when the miles get tough....
I play word games during long distance races. Animals and countries - a is for x, b is for x until I get to z - Roshni Radia
When I struggle I talk in my head to focus on my body. Like activate my core, straighten upper body and I always say I can do it - Sabine Noebel
For Ealing Half Marathon a few years ago I wrote the word STRONG on my arm so I could look at it and remind myself that I was strong enough to keep going, etc when it got difficult! - Becki Cadd
I also used to write my mantra on my hand but then I discovered a more effective pump up tool, it involves dogs. I decided that the one thing that makes me happy is dogs. So when I feel tired or defeated I start counting dogs. If it’s a really tough race I get specific like brown dogs. 🐶 by the time I get bored of it and it takes a while, Ive forgotten or gotten past the hard part or it helps me finish. Way more powerful than a mantra - Corey Melke-Hinz
When I start feeling myself getting in my own head too much and not in a helpful way, I try to make myself take notice of what’s around me, the trees, the colours, the cars and if I’m not listening to music I take note of the sounds too.
If I am listening to music - I make myself concentrate and ‘sing’ along to the lyrics (usually in my head) - this method got me through labour with my son - so I found it works quite well for running too! - Geraldine Millar
I had my mantra painted on my nails for my best marathon :) Repeated it to myself many times during those final miles and bagged myself a PB :) Also, for my first ever marathon I wrote 'just another long run' on my hand to remind myself that I could do it and to trust in the training - Tess Agnew
I don't do mantras I just do maths about distance pace etc to keep me occupied. I also lie to myself about the distance and make it more than it is. So if I'm in a half marathon I tell myself when I get to 7 miles I can count that as I've run halfway, that way the finish comes round quicker - Charlotte Thomas
I am strong, this is easy - Julie Creffield
Before any race I tell myself "Don't look at how far you've got to go. Look at how far you've come". I never, EVER thought I'd be a runner! - Lauren Thomas
What tricks do you have when it comes to keeping your mind in check during tough runs?
*bra c/o Hunkemoller (gifted)
**images Elle Linton