Marathon Mental Prep: be prepared for your next big race

Marathon Mental Prep

Marathon season is upon us and while all the ‘hay’ may be in the ‘barn,’ the big question is are you mentally prepared?

Pick up any book that discusses the mental side of training, like Matt Fitzgerald’s “How Bad Do You Want It?” or “Mindy Gym” by Gary Mack and you’ll come to understand that performance has every bit to do with how ‘fit’ your mind is in addition to the physical preparation. 

If you’re about to tackle a marathon for the first time, or even if you’re planning to go all out and race for a new PR, taking time to map out a mental strategy for the race is critical. 

When it comes to big races (races that have significant importance to YOU), there are three mindset principles that I think are critical to rehearse prior to race day:

Face Your Fears

Facing your fears and doubts head on is the best way to deal with them.  Be curious about your fear and your doubt. Consider where it is coming from, finding the source of the negative thoughts in your mind will ultimately lead you to resolution. The goal isn't to become "fearless" rather it is to be at peace with the fear and doubt because you know and believe the truth. Consider writing all your fears down, next to them write what you consider the source of that fear to be. Reflect on how realistic that fear is and what truth you can use to combat that fear on race day.

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Claim Your Strength

What you believe about yourself is the most powerful indicator of the success you will have. Believe you are strong? Then you’ll show up with strength. Believe you are confident? Then you’ll show up confident. Believe you can’t run well in the heat? Well then you can’t. Wonder if you will struggle in the final miles of marathon? Well, then you will.

Sometimes we need a gentle reminder from ourselves of our own strength. It’s easy to brush off the encouragement from others, but the encouragement we give ourselves is powerful. On race day, you want to be your own biggest cheerleader. Take some time to write down your strengths, include great workouts you had or long runs that felt easeful. Consider all the areas you showed strength, determination and persistence, write them all down and reflect on them frequently as race day approaches.

Foster Gratitude

Identifying things that you are grateful for can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety you may feel about your performance. Gratitude can also create resilience and help you better handle negative emotions when they arise before or during a race. Sometimes when we are invested in an outcome we forget about the privilege of health and movement. Take some time to write down a list of things you are grateful for both within your running and outside of it.

Taking the time to work through you fears and doubts, claim your strength and fill you mind and heart with gratitude will set you up for success and allow your hard work to shine through. 

Want to take a deeper dive into mental prep for your next marathon? Check out my Race Day Mental Prep Workbook. 

Happy Running!

-Sarah