How to Mentally Prepare for Running a Marathon

4th September 2018
A marathon is an important effort for our body and our mind. For this reason, how we face running and prepare at a psychological level is fundamental.

Running a marathon is challenging, and not just for our bodies. Our mental well-being plays an even more important role than our legs. After all, it is our mind that gives our body the instructions that we need to follow. Below we will look at how we can mentally prepare our minds for running a marathon.

A marathon consists of over 26 miles of mental and physical demands. And it requires months of preparation, or even years, for intense competitions.

There are many famous marathons around the world, such as: Boston, Chicago, Berlin, London, New York and Tokyo. These, in addition to so many others, encourage thousands of runners from all over the world to continually challenge their own limits.

Also, marathons imply competition for those who want to win, and consequently require different preparation techniques. Running a marathon is a process that goes far beyond the event itself.

Physical preparation for a marathon

Woman running a marathon.

Before focusing on the mental skills that will benefit all runners, we review the physical requirements that are needed to face this competition:

Have experience in shorter races: according to recommendations from the Olympic athlete, Chema Martínez, you should first experience smaller and shorter organized races, before you start running in the toughest competition.

Have a medical check-up: you will take your body to its maximum limit. Therefore, it’s necessary to make sure that medically you are healthy and able to compete.

Complete eight to ten weeks of pre-marathon training: obviously, it’s also necessary to train for at least two or three months prior to this. The eight to ten weeks is recommended as a final conditioning for your running technique.

Aerobic preparation: your muscles need to have enough oxygen to produce the energy they need to perform in a marathon. There are different methodologies that can be applied during training, and these will depend on the condition of the athlete. A training coach will assess your preferences and plan a strategy to help you prepare aerobically.

Gym work: your muscles must be strong and resistant. This can be achieved by training with weights in a gym. In addition, warm-up and post-workout stretches are also very important.

People getting ready to run a marathon.

Mental training to run a marathon

This aspect is just as important as the physical preparation. An athlete must be aware of their limits and trust their potential to meet their goals. To reach this state, it’s necessary to consider the following points:

Set realistic goals

A rookie cannot immediately break records and win every race. To avoid frustrations that may trigger the abandonment of running, or a reduction in your efforts. You must avoid making unattainable goals.

Based on the knowledge of your own capabilities and the results of your previous training, you must make realistic goals. In addition, take into consideration any problems that may arise in the days before, or during the race itself.

Visualize the competition

During training, imagine yourself in a race situation, and think about how you will cope with the moment when fatigue starts to take over your legs. You should also attempt to follow the race path in advance of the marathon, to familiarize yourself with the route as much as possible.

In addition, you should mentally try to envisage yourself crossing the finish line. If you can imagine it, you can do it. It’s a matter of strength, perseverance, training and self-confidence.

Keep positive

The use of positive phrases during training will be very helpful. Although to many it can seem a little like self-deception, it’s affirmative to recite phrases, such as:  “I can do this!” “Just one more mile to go!” “I’m prepared and I’m going to do it!”

It also helps to have outside support. For instance, a coach, a friend or a partner who encourages you to give your all when you feel ready to give up. Mostly, the limits are in our brains, and not in our bodies.

Focus on the solutions, not the problems

If a specific part of the training or the race causes you difficulties, try to think about how best you can cope. Instead of saying, “This is impossible!” Look for alternative ways to overcome challenges, using concentration and determination.

Man running a marathon.

Self-confidence and preparation

If you’re going to think about failing or you start to self-sabotage, you need to consider if marathon running is the right discipline for you. You have to be convinced that all your hard work will be worth it. Think of the satisfaction that you’ll get when you reach the finish!

As for preparing, make sure you are ready the day before, to prevent any stress on the day. Especially if you have to travel, prepare everything you need, and more. And consider what you may also require in case of an emergency.

As we advised you at the beginning of this article, running a marathon is not just about completing 26 miles. It’s so much more than that. Therefore, you must dedicate yourself and be ready for this incredible sporting challenge. Remember: perseverance and effort will always pay off.