Mentally preparing yourself to run a marathon

THE Irish Examiner Cork City Marathon is a physical battle but the mind plays a huge part also. If you tell yourself something enough times you’ll start to believe it.

Repetition of what you want to achieve is key to winning the mental battle of a marathon. I watched a documentary about Steve Redmond from Ballydehob, Co Cork recently. In 2012, he became the first person in the world to swim all the open water channels of the Ocean’s Seven challenge.

This amazing, odds-defying achievement required unbelievable mental strength.

Redmond failed to complete the final channel — the Tsugaru Strait in Japan — twice before succeeding on the third go. At first, nature had conspired against him as the currents changed; in his second attempt he was left swimming in the same spot for three hours and had to abort after 14 hours.

Any normal person would have packed it in, returned home and spent the rest of their lives cursing their luck. Not Redmond.

His athleticism, training regime, swimming technique and diet were all, of course, huge factors but there was something a little more subtle that ensured his success. Everywhere he went he carried a piece of paper with him. Written on it was what he wanted to achieve and why he wanted to achieve it.

There’s a poignant moment in the documentary when he reads it out to camera. The emotions it triggers in him are extremely strong and you can tell that he wanted to complete the challenge more than anything in the world.

He had worked up such a burning desire that in the end not even nature could stop him — exactly what you need in a marathon.

My running ambitions are small fry compared to the likes of Redmond but his methods are transferable.

In lieu of the ability to come up with something remotely profound and meaningful, my little motivational pieces of paper usually have something as mundane as “don’t make an eejit of yourself, Rob” written on them.

However trivial that may seem, it later forms the core of a belief system that springs into action when you most need it.

In the latter stages of a marathon you are doing the exact opposite of what your body is telling you to do and this is when positive mind chatter kicks in.

While talking to yourself is not advisable in normal circumstances, repeatedly telling yourself that you will finish the marathon and why you will finish it transforms into reassurance.

The point at which your body is failing can be negated by the brain overriding it with contrasting information.

Long before self-help books became the new testament for the ‘me’ generation, acclaimed writer Napoleon Hill was writing about the mental process behind success in 1930s America.

In his most famous work Think and Grow Rich he wrote: “What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve”

By the time your foot hits the start line you should have absolute belief that you can finish the race.

Write down that belief put it in a prominent place and read it over and over again. Your brain will figure it out from there.

Next week: the aftermath of a marathon and how your mindset is forever changed


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