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Marathon Training: Be Mentally Tough to Stay Physically Tough

Long-distance running has both mental and physical hurdles a runner must overcome.

Read on to learn:

  • Tips for training for a marathon in the winter
  • Advice for preparing mentally
  • Ways for staying focused through 26.2 miles

Stay Motivated Through the Winter

When training for a marathon in winter, you cannot simply worry about mileage; you must also consider factors like weather and daylight.

Here are some tips for running through the winter.

  • Set specific short- and long-term goals.
    The night before your workout, set specific goals for yourself. Make each goal realistic and manageable. For example, decide your distance and pace in advance. Setting specific goals makes your workout more focused and productive.
  • Balance your indoor and outdoor training.
    In cold weather, there is a strong temptation to log treadmill miles, rather than run outside. While running indoors is typically safer, it’s also not as challenging as running on the open road. Find your ideal mix by planning your week to include a minimum of two outdoor runs. When you’re six weeks away from your marathon, try to get in as many outdoor runs as possible. This will help ensure you enter race day fully prepared to run the distance.

Stay Encouraged During Training

  • Remind yourself why you’re training.
    Remember, you are not running a marathon because you have to; you’re doing it because you want to. If you need an extra boost of confidence, post sticky notes with encouraging messages in your house, car, and office.
  • Get plenty of rest before the marathon.
    This is just as important the several nights before the marathon as it is the night before the race. Rest helps you gain the focus and clarity you will need to keep going in those final miles.
  • Perform a visualization exercise.
    As you warm up, picture yourself passing serenely through each mile of the marathon approaching the finish line. Focus on this visualization during your long training runs. Return to it as you fall asleep, and recall it on the morning of the race as you prepare. Visit it again as you join the other runners at the starting line.

Stay Focused Through the Entire Marathon

Miles 1-10:

  • Start out slow.
    When you start, you'll feel strong and confident, but hold yourself back and take it slowly. Your body will thank you during the second half of the race.
  • Run your own marathon.
    Go at your own pace. Don't worry if you see people passing you.
  • Stay calm.
    It's tempting to start high-fiving spectators and jumping up and down when you pass family and friends. Although you'll have the energy to do that during the first 10 miles, try to maintain your emotions. You'll need to conserve energy for the rest of the marathon.

Miles 11-20:

  • Break up the marathon.
    Start breaking up the race into smaller segments. It will make the distance feel more manageable.
  • Stay mentally tough.
    Your mental toughness will be tested during these miles. Don't give in to periods of self-doubt and discomfort. Picture those sticky notes telling you that you did a great job, and remind yourself how proud you are of what you’ve already accomplished.
  • Beat boredom.
    Do whatever it takes to keep your mind occupied — sing songs, listen to music, count people, talk to other runners.

Miles 21-26.2:

  • Think outside the body.
    Chances are you'll be feeling a little bit of pain and discomfort during these miles, and you’ll certainly feel tired. Let your mind take over and try to focus on the outside — the spectators, the signs, the other runners, and the scenery.
  • Set small milestones.
    Continue to break up the course, mile-by-mile. Start counting down the miles and the minutes.
  • Talk to yourself.
    At this point in the race, dig deep for extra strength. Remind yourself what you've sacrificed to get to this point. Remember how you worked through fatigue during your training runs, and that you can do it again.
  • Envision yourself crossing the finish line.
    Think about your friends and family waiting to congratulate you on a job well done. And, congratulate yourself on staying mentally and physically tough. 

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