Belief will get you there #11

It’s less than a month now until the London Marathon and less for others running Paris and Brighton.  We’re now at the business end of the training schedule.  It’s a time that’s marked by impatience for the race to arrive, apprehension about what’s going to happen, nerves, excitement and perhaps a little fear.  I think it’s also a period marked by realisation of what you’re about to do and a hyper reality of where you’ve been and where you are with your training schedule – however much it has gone to plan.  I’ve also noticed the hypersensitivity to every niggle, knock, and ache, especially as race day gets nearer.  This is partly down to the amount of training done – you’ve worked your body hard – and it’s also that heightened concern that this is one of the few things that will get in the way of you running on the day.  Be aware, but don’t worry unnecessarily, your belief in your work so far will get you there.

I’ve also been struck by how common it is for the training ‘plan’ to go awry.  How easy it is for it to get interrupted by illness and injury, breaking up the regularity of your training runs which really affects the progress you can make and most importantly your confidence in your running abilities.  Regular runs are the quickest way to improving both of these and the critical persuasion of the body that it’s really what you want it to do.  For me I had my training plans interrupted for both my previous marathons (2011 and 2012) and I’ve written in earlier blogs about the breaks in the 2013 version.

In 2011, I had a least a month off with injury resuming my schedule at the beginning of March for a marathon scheduled on the 2nd weekend of April, whilst in 2012 injury struck again limiting me to about a month and half of full blown training.

And yet, 2011 was a PB of 3hrs 56mins, whilst 2012 a further improvement to 3hrs 42mins and another PB.  So what got me there?

Belief in my training done, distraction through chanting my running mantra ‘run strong’ and preparation for the race being targeted.  Simple as that.

This came up for me following last week’s long run confirmation email.  It reminded me of how important the combination of your training is with, your mental preparation, practical preparation, and your belief in your own capabilities.  Whilst whenever you are running the lack of belief in your capabilities – to run up that hill, to complete that interval, to get through that 2nd,3rd,4th rep of run section, or to finish that tempo section – always seem to come to the fore, wherever you are in the training schedule or your return to running.  There’s always that lack of belief in some form or other, but you do get through it and you will get through the target race as well, however ‘complete’ you are with your own training schedule.

So, the words that sparked the formative thoughts for this blog entry….?  They’re here:

“There is not long to go and you should all start to be focusing on the belief side of the marathon. The belief that you can do it and you’ve only got one long one to go. It’s very exciting, you’re all getting very close to putting your hard work to show on marathon day. Believe you can do it and the positive energy will keep you going on the tougher parts. Even if your training didn’t go to plan, that’s normal, focus on the end goal. If anyone asks, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be (well at least for this one!).”

To get the belief flowing again let’s just focus on what the target is.  In effect it is just another training run, just the best training run you’ll ever do.

The route’s marked – no need to work out where the next turn is whilst glancing down at a sweat sodden map trying to work out if you’ve got it up the right way or you’ve missed the main turning already.  There shouldn’t be any need to avoid those random dogs, pedestrians with smart phones, tourists with wheeled suitcases, or take evasive action for belligerent motorists or murderous van drivers all intent seemingly on causing you the most annoyance possible, particularly in those moments when you really are knackered.  Drinks, gels and blocks are provided.

And then there’s the crowds – one of the main reasons we put ourselves through this.  Our supporters will be there but also will be those you will pass shouting out your name, people you’ll probably see for no more than a few seconds and will probably never see again but there they are encouraging you on.  It’s no comparison to the uncomprehending faces of the Hampstead Coffee shop, al fresco, table occupiers you usually pass on a regular training run.  Silence from them, but not the crowds at your race.  Revel in this and use it to get you round.

There’s also the preparation and this is focussed on a number of further tips that build on my earlier marathon tips in a previous blog entry. So a few quick tips worth considering as you approach your race.

  • Plan you route carefully to the race start.  Check arrangements for transport, how close you can get to the start if driving.  It’s common that roads near the start will be significantly restricted so it’s likely that some walking to the start will be needed and public transport can be unreliable so identify a range of options to get you to the start as easily as possible whatever happens.  It’ll make your race so much harder if you’re rushing to get there.
  • For all you Goths and Emo’s don’t forget to ditch the nail varnish on toes for the day.  The varnish in question prevents your nails being as flexible as they are naturally and this can dramatically increase the chances of the loss of those nails post-race.  So chaps, best to get the pedicure and nail art post-race.  Your finish time would make an interesting option to tax the nail artistes at local salons.
  • Check your race kit now.  Is there anything else you’ll need for racing in, but also pre and post-race to keep you warm and relaxed whatever the weather.  It’s worth checking the long range forecasts and forecast in the days leading up to the race so you can be as prepared as you need to be.  Also make sure you’re well stocked for your gels, blocks and other race refreshment that you’ve got used to during training. This makes sure you’re not worrying about getting too hot or cold whilst waiting for the race to start and you can invest all your thoughts in preparing and enjoying the atmosphere as it builds.
  • And although it is marked, check the route you are running.  Familiarise yourself with where the refreshment stops are and make a plan for how you’ll make use of them.  It’s also worth agreeing with your spectators where you might expect to see them so you can try to concentrate at those points on seeing them rather than the internal dialogue that might be happening at that time.  You can then revel in them seeing you and you seeing them, and for something so simple it really is a wonderful aspect of the race, just seeing a familiar face.

However, it is the belief that is the critical factor.  The best example of this comes from the 2004 Athens Olympics, Dame Kelly Holmes in the 800m and 1500m winning gold, twice.  There’s key moments in both races where she comes through purely on her own belief that the race is hers.  Though for the 800m, we see the personal doubt almost immediately upon finishing – see even Olympic Gold medallists get wracked with some doubt in their races.

So, hold on to the belief.  You are getting there, whatever proportion of the training programme you’ve finished, and come race day you’ll probably not even remember this time, the apprehension, the worry, or the concern.

And “If anyone asks, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be (well at least for this one!)”.

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About Simon Tanner

Seven time marathon runner, having run Brighton x5 and London x2, finally got a London ballot place after 7 consecutive attempts. I try to write about things I'm going through / have gone through in training to help others attain their running goals.
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