So, you’re sitting on the sofa staring at the screen of your laptop;you’ve just signed yourself up for a half marathon. What on earth were you thinking? You can barely run 5k and you would only do that so you could get to the fish and chip shop before closing…
Can anyone else relate, or is it just me?
You’ve realized the pickle you’re in, but that’s OK; you’ve made it to my blog and I’m going to tell you 9 ways to be a mentally strong runner. You will no longer be classed a couch potato once you’ve run this half marathon,so stay with me!
#1 Know how far you’re going to be running
If, like me, it is a half marathon you’re about to start then make sure you know what it’s like to run a similar distance, you don’t necessarily have to have run the whole way (you have to run your first half at some point anyway) but have an idea what it might be like. This will avoid that horrible moment when you’ve run 5 miles and you feel you should be at the finish, imagine if you’ve just got to the end of you’re day at work and you realize you still have another 2 hours left (yeah, you know that feeling… soul destroying right?).
#2 Know your route
This has always been a massive one for me, and it kinda links to #1, but if you know your route you’ll have an idea of how far you have left to run. Although this one isn’t strictly necessary if you have one of those fancy watches or even an app on your phone, it might still be nice not to think about where to turn next and for old fashioned runners like me it makes a huge difference to my mental state while running.
So you’ve done all the preparation in advance, now you want some tips for the mental battle you’re going to fight while actually running.
#3 Think why you entered in the first place
Although it’s a possibility, I doubt you just happened to stumble across the run and enter without any real wish to, so use this to your advantage. Most people have the desire to get fit or want the sense of achievement, and remembering this can be a great help for when fatigue sets in. I’m personally training so I can get sponsored and raise money for a gap year but you could be doing it for a variety of reasons, I would love to hear yours in the comments below.
#4 Imagine the finish line
I’m sure you’ve seen the TV where the first runner dramatically runs through the tape to finish… Well I’m not guaranteeing that for you but you will have a huge sense of satisfaction when you finish especially if you’ve followed tip #3, because you will realize you have been successful in you goal; you might not not get it, but you deserve the dramatic finishing line! If you imagine this while running it might give you that extra push and bring you one ‘stride’ closer (get it…? sorry, couldn’t resist) to being that mentally tough runner.
#5 That next… tree…
This one’s another of my favorites. You tell yourself to make it to a specific point you set, whether that be 2 meters in front or a little further. This one is great for that final mile of the run and you’re really beginning to feel it, but BEWARE it’s easy to tell let yourself stop when you get to that point, so make sure you set yourself another pretty fast after you reach you it… Trust me, I’ve been there…
Sounds obvious right? But this one’s about the syncing of your breathing to your strides, helping your running get more rhythm. It also works as a distraction technique, but I often find it only goes to emphasize exhaust, seeming to make me focus more on pain rather than distract. Despite this one not working as much for me, I put it in because I’ve heard great things and it might work for you, be sure to let me know if it does.
#7 Distract yourself
This is similar to the last point, but it will really help if you can think of something other than fatigue. I certainly struggle… You could ask yourself maths questions, something like, I dunno, 2+2. Keep asking yourself questions like that and you’ll be at the finish line before you know it….
#8 The person next to you, they just started a race. Sprint to the finish.
This point basically means finish with a sprint, no matter how tired you are. There are loads of different ways you could convince yourself to sprint, the one I like to use is imagining the person next to me and I are in a race (which we kinda are); if you’re lucky they might actually start sprinting as you do, then you’ve really got to try. Your slightly more unfortunate though if there isn’t many people around when you finish but I’m sure you could come up with something about being chased by a lion, it’s an all too common experience these days…
That’s it from me for the moment. I hope you find these tips useful, they’re just the ones I tend to use; I’m sure there are plenty more, so if you do come up with any great ones, please let me know in the comments because I could use all the help I can get for my half marathon…