Last night’s run went badly. Achy limbs. Stomach cramps. Mental fatigue.
I hated it. But it took me back to training for my first marathon. Fifteen miles in Richmond Park where I cried tears of frustration at the end. Stumbling home with bloody knees after tripping on rocks along the Thames path, my tired legs unable to muster the energy to avoid them.
Disillusioned and disheartened, I didn’t think I’d make the 26.2 mile distance. But I did.
Yesterday’s run reminded me that these feelings of self doubt can still rear their head from time to time. But it also made me realise that, two years and four marathons on, this happens less often. Because marathon training isn’t just about become physically stronger. The mind becomes more resilient too. Quicker to bounce back from set backs. Better at fighting the negative voices that tell you to give up.
Some say that running is a 50% physical, 50% mental feat. Others place more weighting on the mental component. 70%? 80%? Take your pick. While experience brings confidence that can’t necessarily be learnt overnight, a large part of marathon training is rehearsing for the big day. What to eat before. Fuelling during the race. How much to drink.
But mental preparation is just as important. Whether it’s turning on that uplifting playlist at a certain point. Or repeating a positive mantra over and over in your head. These are things that can and should be practised ahead of race day too.
Knowing that half the battle is in the mind is something I wish I’d been more aware of when training for my first marathon. But understanding this now has hugely helped me train for recent marathons.
So when training gets tough, take a deep breath. Visualise your future self crossing the finish line and collecting your medal. Feel the flood of emotions, knowing that all the months of training have been worth it for this moment.