Mental Patience

With less than three weeks to go now, I’m in the crucial stage of preparation. Having done a magnificent 15 miles on Sunday, my longest training miles are now behind me and the tapering begins. Much more than that, though, is the start of the mental preparation.

Sunday’s long run taught me a few things:
1. My legs have strengthened to the extent where I at last feel confident that they can carry me round the distance without suffering with every step from the start.
2. That I’ve still got some training to go, as I was very, very tired after the 15.
3. It’s not just about the legs – my shoulders and stomach ached after that distance.
4. That I need to be mentally stronger.

Doing anything physically difficult for a long time requires mental strength, and the marathon is right up there in the mentally-demanding stakes. In training and at race time, your brain knows that you don’t have to run. There’s no monster chasing you. Your life is not in danger. Stopping would actually be preferable to contining to run. You override this fact by ambition at the start, but soon the different factions inside your head meet and the debate begins:

“So, you’re saying that we don’t have to be running right now?”
“Well, no. But he wants to. He’s doing it for some reason or another.”
“Ok. But it would be sooooo much easier if we stop now.”
“Well, yes, obviously. But -”
“And we’re not going to finish anywhere particularly great?”
“Only back home.”
“Where we started?”
“Errr, yes.”
“Two sodding hours ago?”
“Um, yeah. You have a point, I guess.”
“So it’s agreed: we stop.”
“No!… Yes….Noooo! We can’t!”
“I’m stopping the legs in 5 seconds unless I get a better argument…”

This is where you bring in the cavalry, the pre-planned, Oh-Shit-You’re-In-Trouble-Blast-The-Doubters-Override-Special-Voice:


“What the? Who said that? Wha-”


“What was I about to do? Something about stopping?”


“I forget now. Maybe we should carry on. I can’t think with all these words…”

These three lines are a little mantra that I concocted the other day to help me banish all other thoughts. This was my cavalry, and as above, it worked to banish thoughts of quitting. My goal was 15 miles and I had to reach it. When I was flagging, telling myself I had the strength told my body not to worry – I really DID have the strength.

But I’m going to need more than that, as like any remedy, sometimes you can become too familiar and the effects lessen. By 14 miles, I could already picture the factions in my head putting on earmuffs and emailing each other their plot to stop the madness.

So right now I’m preparing the songs I’m going to sing in my head, the stories I can recall, the dreams I can try to hide myself into as I let my body do its thing that it’s trained to do for all these months. With the crowd and the whole experience, I hope to be prepared from top to bottom when I step over the start line.

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