I recently was asked what my favorite distance to race is and you might be surprised, given my most recent disaster, that I actually really like the marathon. Even though I don’t think it likes me, lol!
Despite not having run one where I’ve crossed the finish line satisfied with my performance, I still do them, still train for them. Why? Because I know I have it in me to run one well. And if I think about it (which I do
obsessively often), I think a big reason why I haven’t done well is because the marathon scares me.
I’m afraid of the marathon. It’s not that it doesn’t like me, it’s that I don’t allow it to like me.
It’s like that one person you know that is perfect, always has it all together, and you hate that person for absolutely no reason–or for all of those reasons–but really, you actually kinda really like them, maybe even admire them.
And they like you. But they’re afraid to talk to you and socialize because you’ve always had this wall up preventing them from getting near you–you know, because you don’t like them.
But you actually do.
That’s me and the marathon.
I curse the marathon. I tell it how awful it is. How unfair. But really, I like it. Really like it. And I’m finally okay with putting my wall down and letting it like me.
Not long after I was asked what my favorite distance is, a friend posted this really interesting article on the fear of failure and I think that’s at the root of my love/hate relationship with the marathon.
It’s not the marathon, it’s my fear of failing at it.
I think in my first marathon, I was the overzealous new kid who was simply excited to be there. Sometimes, that’s an advantage because you’re so excited about the fact you’re even there, talking to Miss Perfect, that you’re oblivious to anything else.
My first marathon remains my PR.
I think after that, realizing that the marathon was bigger than I had imagined (and prepared for), fear crept in. I knew I wanted to do it again, I knew I wanted to do better, BUT, could I do it?
The article focuses on fear of failure in children and teens but it’s an article that really anyone can easily relate to.
Fear of failure is the single most common cause of performance difficulties …Whether they [the athlete] experience low confidence and extreme negativity, pre-competitive anxiety, a preoccupation with results, or severe self-criticism, in most cases, when we dig deep enough, we discover a profound fear of failure at its root.
Yeah, me in a nutshell.
I trained really hard for Chicago Marathon and I felt confident I could PR and confident I could sub 4:30. But I let fear reside in my head. I don’t think that was the sole cause of why I didn’t do well, I really think flying out the day before didn’t help, but I do think allowing negativity to settle itself in my brain and eat away at my confidence affected my performance.
So what can I do? It’s easy to tell myself to “think positive” but how?
I found another interesting article that talks about the marathon specifically and how to mentally prepare. There were a few things in it that resonated.
An actor rehearses the lines of a play again and again before the big performance; learning the correct sequence and timing of the performance.
So too should a runner spend time in visualization, rehearsing the big race over and over in the mind.
An actor does not intentionally rehearse the wrong lines before a play, which would not make sense; instead an actor focuses on and repeats the performance in the way they would like it to happen. Runners should take the time to visualize their upcoming performance in a positive light.
Totally makes sense, right??
The article suggests breaking the marathon into two halves– unequal halves, lol–the first 20 miles and the final 10k. Their argument is that in training, we do a 20 mile run, sometimes more than one. We know what that feels like and are familiar with it, so we should then approach the final 10k like that is the race.
It is best to fully accept the agony of a marathon’s final 10 Kilometers before you reach it. Don’t just anticipate the pain, accept it, welcome it, and embrace it.
The final 10K of a marathon should hurt, it is only when a runner can accept that concept that they can truly reach full potential in the marathon.
I totally felt like when I read that, something clicked. I’ve often whined, “Whhhhy can’t a marathon be 20 miles miles!!” because I’ve done a bunch of those. Yet, I haven’t reached the 20 mile mark in a race feeling the way I do when I run 20 training miles and I think it’s because I’m so focused on the whole 26.2. If I can run the first 20 miles in a race comfortably, in my mind telling myself this is something I’ve done before no sweat, then I can tell myself I’m only running a 10k race and prepare myself mentally for those 6.2 miles that without doubt will be more difficult than the first 20.
I don’t know, what do you guys think? How do you mentally prepare for a marathon (or race of any distance)? I feel like my training has been strong, that it was strong this last marathon cycle, but maybe what I really need to put more attention on is my mental strength. I saw a glimmer of hope in Chicago when I fought through the cramps. Maybe that means I’m finally working my way to running a great marathon…
Thanks for listening to me go on and on, lol!! ❤ , helly