So the big mileage is now done! 3 weeks out and its time to taper. I would love to be writing this full of beans, raring to go, but as it happens, you find me at the back of 3 of the worst training runs of my entire programme! Frustrating, but trying to rationalise how far we go in training for such events. Also, respecting what it is that we undertake. The marathon is an endurance event: as the oxford dictionary will tell us, this means;
“The ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way”
Lots of experienced marathon runners describe the event as a “20 mile race” and a “6.2 mile race”. My reading of this is very much that the second race is very much a psychological thing as much as a physical. Lots of runners have a mantra in their head to keep them going as they enter the ‘dark miles’. Paula Radcliffe once said that she outran Geta Wami to win the New York Marathon by chanting “I love you Isla” (her daughter), over and over (Ref 1). Lovely bit of oxytocin use! I think all runners find their own version of a pep-talk, some going as far as to write them on their hands pre race. Lynsey Sharp is a famous example of this in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
For me, I always have in mind something I talk about when working with Runners – the 4 C’s, in order:
Concentration: Do NOT go off to fast.
Composure: Keep calm, it’s just running
Confidence: in your training
Commitment: to your training and your goal
Part of the 3rd C, Confidence, is knowing that you have done the hard part; you have made the start line! In his book Bounce, Matthew Syed talks about “purposeful practice”, which I am strong believer in. In my S&C Workshop For Runners, I talk about the relevance of our practices and so I have tried to take my own advice and incorporate this in my training. For me, this is researching the course route, knowing your weaknesses and trying to limit the potential negative effects on the day! We need to mentally strong for any endurance event. As Irish boxer Steve Collins once said;
“I’d rather be 75% physically ready, and 100% mentally ready, than 100% physically ready and 75% mentally ready”
Hopefully I am 100% both on October 2nd…..ask me half way through the dreaded taper…
Ref 1. Running With The Kenyans, A. Finn
N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.