With a week until the London marathon, there’s no more training to be done. It’s taper time. Whilst the body rests, now is the time to get your mind into gear and prepare for the challenge ahead.
If you are starting to worry, feel fear or contemplate doubts, that is totally normal, you are not alone. I am doing the same. If it was easy everyone would be doing it! If you knew you could do it, it wouldn’t be a challenge.
What happens in the mind during those 26.2 miles cannot be predicted or controlled, but it can be managed and we can prepare for it.
Here are my top tips and tricks for developing the right mindset to overcome mental barriers:
1. Control your preparation
Start planning now for the days, hours, minutes before your race. Don’t leave anything up to chance that could use up precious energy or create stress. Plan your nutrition, kit, travel and what music you’ll listen to on the way there. All of this can have a huge impact on your performance. The night before a big race, I pack and lay out my kit, eat pasta at 6pm, take a bath and am aim to be in bed by 8:30pm.
2. Harness your motivation
Understand what's your why and dig deep into your internal motivators. Think about how fortunate you are to do this. I love this quote; “One day I will not be able to do this. Today is not that day.”
3. Distract your mind
When the pain levels increase, your mind will crave a distraction so give it something else to focus on. Listen to music or focus on the people racing with you and draw from the energy of those supporting you.
4. Use positive reinforcements
Have a bank of positive images, quotes, songs that make you feel good or a message from someone that believes in you to remind you, you can do this!
5. Let it flow
Sometimes the pain will cause a release of emotion and if I am really struggling, the only option is to let that emotion go and keep on trucking. In time everything will pass.
6. Keep on trucking
Just don't stop! Put one foot in front of the next and repeat. I had a really tough time in the Race to the Stones 100km ultramarathon. I couldn’t find the motivation to continue suffering but deep down I knew I wanted to finish the race. There were tears, doubts, highs, lows and a lot of pain, but I kept on going and finished with a smile 13 hours later.
7. Break it down
Break down your objective into smaller, more sizeable chunks. If it’s a marathon, that’s four sets of 10km with a bit extra. Don't let your mind get overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
8. Believe in yourself
Probably the most important! It’s hard and it will hurt, but we are all capable of far more than we realise. This is your chance to prove to yourself how strong you are.
9. Use a Motivational Mantra
In my darkest moments, sometimes the only thing that gets me through is repeating a mantra to myself. Something short, positive and encouraging. Don’t leave any room in your head for that negative voice by repeating something positive, it works! What you think becomes how you feel.
10. Envisage your finish line treat
What’s waiting for you at the finish line? Maybe your family are there, maybe you’re raising money for charity, or did you stop drinking alcohol or give up chocolate until after the race? For me, it’s that first hug with my family, the feeling of achievement and that post-race burger and beer that motivate me to keep on pushing.