MR editor David Castle shares his six top tips for mental mastery of the marathon
1) No matter what speed you think you want to start running at, run slower. It’s easy to get carried away with the emotion on the day and the cheers of the crowd, but start too quickly and it will come back to bite you in the closing stages. Run your own race, not that of other people.
2) Split the race up into bite-size chunks. You might decide to divide it into a series of 10Ks, with a goal time for each of these. This is particularly useful as you get into the latter stages. When you get to miles 17, tell yourself that you’ve got a six-mile run followed by an easy 5K. By doing this, the whole marathon journey becomes more manageable.
3) Think positive thoughts. Give yourself a mantra that you can repeat when the distance starts to bite. It has to be something it is motivational for you. Tell yourself ‘I can do this’ and repeat it, over and over again. Self-belief is worth any number of training sessions.
4) See yourself at the finish line. Before the race, take a mental image of yourself crossing the finish line, raising your arms and celebrating your achievement. Hold this in your mind and when you start to have self-doubts, summon this image up to give yourself that bit of extra incentive.
5) Listen to music. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but listening to music can really make the miles fly by. Studies have shown that listening to music while on the run can lower your perception of effort by up to 10%, which means that you run at the same speed without putting in as much effort. Choose your playlist wisely.
6) Focus on the outside not on the internal. Mental distractions can really help you get through, whether it’s counting the number of fellow runners, lamp-posts, singing songs or counting down the time to water stops. You could use your gels as ‘mini rewards’ every 30 minutes or focus on the spectators and their support.