Before I ever started running, I would occasionally watch runners and wonder just how on earth they endured the boredom of a lengthy run. I didn’t get it. Now, after running several marathons, I can confirm what countless marathon runners have been saying for years: running a marathon is just as much about mental metal as it is about physical fitness.
Three Mental Phases of Marathon Running: Preparation, Mental Stamina, and Psychological Rewards
Sports psychologists speak about the importance of mental preparation, the thought processes during the run and the psychological benefits or making it across the finish line. I can attest that each aspect deserves consideration:
- How To Prepare Your Mind For A Marathon: Apart from gradually increasing the length of your training runs in preparation for the 26.2 miles, you also need to put some mental coping mechanisms in place. Experts urge runners to engage in the following three mental exercises: visualization, self-motivation and positive self-talk. Before the marathon, you spend quite some time visualizing yourself going the distance. Try to make it as realistic as you possibly can. Visualization is said to be an excellent anxiety buster and preparatory tool. Self-motivation is equally important and simple, affirmative phrases can be a great help. Equally, uplifting mantras about your ability to endure can also increase your chances of making it through until the end, particularly when you hit the wall and need to find the strength to keep going.
- Marathon Thought Processes: A recent study by sports psychologists tried to determine, what marathon runners think about during their race. They identified three main areas: Running rhythm and distance, pain and endurance and lastly, the environment. Most runners were focused on maintaining a free-flowing running rhythm, while frequently remembering the pain and occasionally shifting their thoughts to their environment. This may seem rather trivial, however, I can confirm the validity of the study’s results. I did strive to keep an even pace, did think about all my aches and discomforts, and I also tried to distract and entertain myself with my environment. Still, I also spent a lot of time pondering the smaller and greater issues in my life, the people in it and simple everyday stuff. You will find your own thinking patterns and as long as you keep your thoughts upbeat the actual content matters little. Your mind will tell you that your pain is too much to bear and that is exactly why you will require stamina and mental toughness. Focusing on the end result has always kept my motivation levels high and I suggest you find a “mental carrot” to get you through, whatever that may be.
- The Main Psychological Benefit of Completing a Marathon: The elation you feel after crossing the finish line is unrivaled. It endures. Ever since I completed my first marathon, I approach difficulties with a newly acquired calm, an unknown confidence and certainty that I will get through, no matter what! This has probably been the most valuable reward and I know deep down that until the day I die, I will be considerably more self-assured, a lot less fearful and heaps happier. Ultimately, whenever I run a marathon now, I can draw on this strength and be sure of succeeding.
You should try and run a marathon, everyone should, at least once in their lifetime! Even a half marathon can suffice and maybe it’s just about setting a tough goal and reaching it. When you do, you will feel strong, elated and just be thrilled. Perhaps that is why an ever increasing number of people from all walks of life are participating in marathons all across the world.