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  • Writer's pictureDr Victor Thompson

Mental tips for the marathon - Virgin Money London Marathon, or any marathon

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Sports psychology mental tips for marathon runners

With the London Marathon in a few days time, I thought that it might be time to give you a couple of sports psychology tips for the marathon. There are more mental tips and psychological techniques that you can apply, but these two will give you a great foundation to the event.

Tip 1: Go to the movies in your mind

To help you feel more confident, use imagery or visualisation, to rehearse the marathon day, working out how you'll be, what you'll do, and what will give you a great experience (and performance). Then you are more likely to better manage the day and get more out of it.

Here goes:

  • Imagine for a moment that you are a movie director, able to create any type of scenario that you want, in a fair amount of detail.

  • Think about how you want to run the marathon, how you will greet your marathon day, what you will eat, what you may wear.

  • Think about how you will feel, the emotions of excitement and nerves.

  • What will you be thinking on the day – positive, fearful, negative, or most likely some combination of all three. You'll be out there for a few hours, there will be lots of emotions and thoughts going on.

  • Now imagine the ‘race.’ How you will run it, what will you do to keep you on (not above) your race pace (heart rate monitor, GPS, time to each mile marker)?

  • Think of what might get in the way of you having your best day out there – nutrition, poor pacing, giving space to your negative or stressful thoughts… Then work out how you might minimise each of these.

  • Work these into your imagined scenes, with plenty of detail, make them as live as you can.

  • Practice these scenarios and how you will overcome them, several times prior to marathon day.

Tip 2: Create three goals for marathon day

You may have heard of SMART goals, or even better, SMARTER goals. Here I focus on a different aspect of goal setting - the three levels of goal-setting - the dream, the likely, the minimal. take a different.

  • Goal 1: Dream goal, if all goes as well as it can (but still based on reality!)

  • Goal 2: Likely goal, if you have an okay day, challenging, mixed but not too much of a ‘mare.

  • Goal 3: Minimal goal, this is one of self-acceptance, even if the whole day turns into a ‘mare. You have done your best, but sometimes, well stuff happens.

Write each of these goals on a sheet of paper. Commit to being okay at the end of the day if you reach goal one, two or three. Build the acceptance of reaching each of these into your imagery or visualisation practice.

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