Mental Tips to Run your Best Marathon
Guest Blog by: Wearsafe Running Ambassador, Erin W.
If you’ve done all the training — you’re ready for race day! #TeamWearsafe Ambassador Erin shares her tips to stay focused, stay safe, meet your goals and cross that marathon finish line!
When I lace up my shoes nearly every morning and head out the door, I am not only doing one of my favorite things, but I’m training my body & mind to run my best race, more than likely, my best marathon. Something that takes a lot of time, sacrifice, energy & will power. I haven’t always been a runner, heck I haven’t even always loved running. Today it’s something I can’t imagine my life without.
I started running in April of 2013 and no, I had never enjoyed running before that. My first race was the CDPHP Corporate Challenge and I signed up for that race because A.) everyone in my office was doing it, B.) it was free and C.) I have a severe case of FOMO ("Fear of Missing Out"). I wore a cotton t-shirt, shorts that were beyond uncomfortable (hello wedgie!) and a pair of sneakers I found in my closet that I had for years. It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't terrible either. I actually kind of enjoyed myself. I was bit pretty hard by the running bug and I haven't stopped since. I just ran my 8th marathon this past April in Boston!! While I am in no way an expert on the subject or training, I feel confident that I can give you a normal, “every day” runners advice on how to run your best half marathon or marathon.
Over the past few years, I have done countless hours of research on all things running related, received a ton of advice (both solicited and unwarranted), tried and failed at a lot of fueling and training plans, joined a running group and received help from a professional by hiring a running coach. My first 2 marathons weren't complete disasters, actually. I did my homework, practiced fueling and bathroom strategies on my long training runs, and had a good idea of what to expect. I decided to hire Mat Nark of Nark Running Strategies to help me qualify for Boston in 2015 ( I did!!) and I’ve been with him since! In joining Mat, I also became part of an amazing team who are now some of my closest and most dear friends!!
Something I would suggest is finding a local running team or group (or recruit friends!) to keep you company on your long training runs! I am very lucky that I almost always have a training partner, but when I don’t (or just feel like running alone) I make sure to take precautions to keep me safe! I am always very aware of my surroundings, carry my phone, bring pepper spray & clip on my Wearsafe Tag. The Wearsafe device is so simple and easy to use, if I was ever in trouble I just click it and my husband is notified! If he calls me and I don’t answer he knows something's not right and he’s able to get help to me ASAP! Hopefully that will never happen, but the peace of my mind is so nice. Right now I’m on the injured list (so no running :( ) but I still use it when I bike ride! I use it every day as well and it’s just on my keychain!
I feel like the best advice I can give is almost all mental and not so much physical. Why? By the time you toe the starting line, you should have practiced enough, planned enough and trained enough to know your body can go the distance. I believe in the power of the mind. Let me tell you, the marathon is one long mind game. Having a strong mind when your body feels weak and tired and like your limbs might actually come detached from your body can benefit you greatly come race day. "It is you versus you, make sure you win." This really helped me at Boston this year when everyone was freaking out over the hot weather that was expected! I didn’t think about it much in the days leading up to the race & only for a few miles in the beginning of the race. I was able to push the heat and discomfort to the very back of my mind and finished with an almost 7 minute PR!
1. Plan to race alone.
Training runs and race day are a completely different animal. It's tempting to want to run with your training partners because you've already gone through so much together. Don't. Your race is YOUR race and no one can run it for you. I run and train with a lot of faster runners, so come race day, if I tried to keep up with them, I would completely bonk.
Have you ever gone out to fast in 5k? By mile 2 you have completely run out of juice and you pretty much want to die. You can’t make up that time. The race is over. The beauty of a marathon is the TIME and the DISTANCE. Repeat this word to yourself over the first few miles, patience, patience, patience. A marathon is not won in the first few miles, but it can be lost there.
3. Find a mantra.
I was TERRIFIED when I was standing at the start line (waaaaay back from the line actually) of my first marathon. I knew I could run 20 miles, I had done it 4 times, but 26 miles just seemed SO FAR. In the days leading up, I searched for inspiration and one thing that stuck with me was 'breathe in strength. Breathe out weakness." When times got tough, I would draw on that, focus on my breathing and pushed forward! I knew with each step I was one step closer to becoming a marathoner and one step closer to the finish. The mantra I’ve been using the past couple races is ‘Relentless Forward Motion’. Find something that speaks to you and use it.
4. Embrace the suck.
This will not be sunshine and unicorns. It will be hard and uncomfortable and you may want to cry and stop. Do not.. As humans, it is NORMAL to want to quit when something gets extremely hard. We think something is wrong. I am here to say the opposite is more truer to runners. Discomfort is our switch that signals to us that we are pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and that is a beautiful thing. That switch, that drive and that push is what gives us our sense of accomplishment. When the pain comes, notice it, shake hands with it and do not let it break you.
5. Smile and be grateful.
No matter how you feel, smile, give some high 5's, thank your volunteers and encourage runners around you. Convince your mind that you feel good. Never let your mind think you feel anything less than fantastic. Recognize the amount of hard work it took you to get to this point, that you are on your way to being in the top .17% who has completed a marathon. You are doing this. Your mind is strong. You are strong. Be thankful for all of it. In the moments you are suffering, breath, say thank you. If it is your 1st or 21st, you are becoming a marathoner.
Thank you Wearsafe for having me! If you’d like to read more about my running & training, I blog over at The Little Runner Girl.