This is a column about motivation, its written there at the top of the page. Every time I open the computer to write my contribution I’ve tried to offer all our readers the tools to overcome certain concerns, issues or scenarios that might occur every day during our running lives. But this is the marathon issue of your favourite running magazine and I can’t let this edition slip by without touching on some Sport Psychology.
You may not know it but having reached this far in your Dublin City Marathon training plans you are more practised in the field of Sport Psychology than you could ever believe. You’ve had the mental strength to go training when you didn’t feel like it. You’ve visualised your race, imagined the sights and sounds of the crowd prior to lining up at the start line. You’ve calmed pre-race nerves by running through the personal mantras you know clear your mind of negative thoughts. All these tips and tricks along with many more have their background deeply embedded in Sport Psychology.
But what we will talk about today, specifically in relation to your marathon journey is resilience. A huge focus for sportspeople, amateur and professional alike, resilience is crucial to success. Learning it, practising it, implementing it. The ability to overcome adversity when it stares us straight in the face is resilience. The strength to return from serious injury is resilience in action. The capacity to face problems and issues head on and look at how you can overcome whatever stands in your way makes you resilient. How often have we heard of people being labelled as ‘mentally tough’? They are resilient.
Is that you?? I’d hazard a guess that any number of the conditions mentioned above have applied to you in the time you’ve been running. Injury? Mid-race fatigue? Pre-race nerves? If you have overcome any setback, any negative thought or any form of difficult situation or adversity then you are resilient.
The marathon is a difficult race, common thought is that only 1% of the population have finished a marathon and even less have done more than one. But your preparation will stand you in good stead when bank holiday Sunday rolls around. Lined up on Merrion square the butterflies will begin in force so remember how you last used that nervous energy to get through the Race Series. When you run under the Luas bridge in Milltown, remember that you’ll have run that far in training, the 20mile mark is just around the corner. When you come to the end of Roebuck road and face ‘Heartbreak Hill’ remember the hills you ran over in the last few months. All these experiences will make you mentally tougher, because every time you ticked a run off your marathon plan then you’ve trained your mind as well as your body.
Things start to go astray when the negative thoughts outweigh and outnumber the positive ones. As well as mental resilience, we need to be aware that the marathon will be a massive drain on your emotional strength. How will you feel if your planned marathon pace becomes too fast to maintain? What about when you turn a corner and find the wind is blowing head on? Or if you plan to see friends on the course but they didn’t make it in time to the point you had decided? How you face these and all the other challenges will determine not only the success but the enjoyment of your race.
Many runners find that ‘self-talk’ is an excellent coping strategy to balance out the negative emotional effects that may creep in during a race. Use self-talk in a positive way to boost your confidence. Dedicate each distance marker to some person or group that has supported and believed in you on your marathon journey. Use Imagery – Imagine and reflect on the positive emotions that will flood the mind when you cross the marathon finish line and a volunteer puts a medal around your neck.
Don’t let the negative thoughts and emotions take over. Between now and the 29th October prepare your mind for how you will deal with whatever this amazing race will throw at you. There is always an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive and remember, for all but a very few of the estimated 20,000 starters the Dublin City marathon is a fun event. It might have started off as a personal goal, a bet or just something you always wanted to do, but outside of the handful of professionals at the front of the field there is nothing more at stake than pride. Dublin is known worldwide as the friendly marathon and I can’t wait to be one of the many thousands of people who line the route to cheer you on and celebrate your achievements. Keep an eye out for me, I’ll bring some jellies.