Marathon training: how to win the mental battle
29 January 2020 by
29 January 2020 by
The old saying goes that the marathon is as much about mental toughness as physical fitness - and that goes for marathon training too! Here's how to win that mental battle.
This tip is an old'un but a good'un. The prospect of running 20 miles in one go can be daunting - even for the most seasoned runners. Strategically breaking up your runs into segments makes them mentally easier to digest and helps you maintain positivity and focus to smash out that long run. For a lot of runners using the halfway point as a focus works well, so that on your longest run you're aiming for a 10 or 11 mile run out, and then after that you're mentally on the home stretch, counting down the miles to the end.
Nothing adds to the monotony of a long run more than repeating the same route, over and over every Sunday. You're used to the same sights and sounds and you know exactly where the toughest parts of your run will be. It's basically predictable and the only outcome is more monotony. Try to change up your route regularly to counter this. Map it in advance, and if you can, take a circular route and avoid "out and back routes" which can make the first half of a long run soul destroying. It's not always so easy to find lots of 20 mile routes close to home though, so if you're struggling to find a new one - switch it up and run it the other way round.
Make sure you've got a playlist of your favourite, most uplifting tracks. Keep them upbeat and high energy to keep your mood and spirits up - now is not the time for power ballads, or songs that remind you of your ex. Also, make sure it's long enough to last your whole run and that you update it regularly - you'll be amazed at how fast your favourite all-time tune becomes incredibly irritating when you're tired, your legs hurt and you've heard it over' and over' and over.
Don't procrastinate! Yes it's Sunday, and sure, we'd all rather stay in bed eating toast. But getting your long run in early means you've got the rest of the day to chill out and relax, or do all that other non-running stuff you need to do. What's worse is putting it off until eventually you get going late in the day, thinking about how you'd be finished now if only you'd gone earlier. Set the alarm, get your kit ready the night before and get it done. There's also something indescribably satisfying about early morning running and the shared understanding, smug nods from fellow runners and cyclists - "we know why we do this, even if no one else does."
Mental positivity plays an important role in keeping you going when going the going gets tough, and external stress is a key cause of incomplete or even cancelled training runs. A bad week at work or a row with your other half can have a huge mental impact when you're pushing on through long miles and you feel like giving up. The long run gives you a lot of time for thinking, and over-thinking too. Leave any arguments, stress and feelings of low self-esteem at home and focus on you and what you want from this run. If you're feeling stressed, then channel that into your running - you might not be able to control events around you - but you and you alone are in charge of this run.
It's easy to lose sight of the end goal when you're tired, fatigued and immersed in longer and longer mileage. At some point you'll probably start to wonder why you signed up for this. It's important to know that you'll have good days and bad, but every run you do is bringing you closer and closer to your goal and membership of that exclusive 1% of people who've completed a marathon. That 18 mile run ahead seems daunting, but just look back to when even 10 miles seemed impossible. You've already come so far. Mile by mile, step by step, you're closer all the time.
This article was originally published at www.sportsshoes.com.