The Mind / Motivation

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Mental strength

Running a marathon tests your mental strength as much as it does your physical fitness. Each segment has it own mental challenges. Here are some tips on how to win the battles throughout the race:

First 10 Miles:

Start out slow. When you start your race, you’ll feel strong and confident, but you must keep telling yourself to hold back. Running your first half slower than the second half is the key to running a smart and enjoyable marathon. Take it slow. Your body will thank you during the second half of your race.

Run your own race. Don’t be worried if you see a lot of people passing you. Remember the tortoise and the hare? They may be starting out way too fast, so you’ll catch them later — at your own pace.

Don’t get too emotional. Try to stay as calm as possible for the first 10 miles.

You’ll need to conserve your mental energy for the rest of the race.

Miles 11-20:

Break up the race. Start breaking up the race into smaller segments. It will make the distance feel more manageable. At mile 17, for example, think, “One six mile race, then it’s just about a 5K to go.”

Stay mentally tough. Your mental toughness will really start to be tested during these miles. Don’t give into periods of self-doubt and discomfort. Remember all the training that you have done and have faith in it. Think about how hard you have worked and how rewarding it will be to complete your race.

Beat boredom. Here’s when you really get to use all those boredom-battling tricks you tried out during your long runs. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind occupied: Sing songs, play mental games, count people, talk to other runners.

Miles 21-26.2:

Think outside the body. Chances are you will be feeling a little bit of pain during these miles. You will certainly feel tired. Let your mind take over from your body and try to focus on the outside — the spectators, the other runners, the scenery.

Set small milestones. Continue to break up the course, mile by mile. Start counting down the miles and the minutes.

Talk to yourself. At this point in the race, you need to dig down deep for extra strength. Remind yourself what you’ve sacrificed to get to this point. Remember how you’ve worked through fatigue during your training runs and how you can do it again. Picking a short phase that you play over and over in your head while running can help you stay focused and centred. It can be your inner motivation when you need it most. Finding a mantra isn’t hard: It can pop into your head as you’re listening to your iPod, chatting with training partners, or flipping through a running magazine. Pick one that fits your running style and personality, such as: “Easy does it” or “Harder, faster, stronger” or “Never give up”.