How to run strong.
I’ve heard many runners say that in a marathon, the hard work begins at mile 20. It’s the final 10K that will make or break your race, and your training should prepare you for those final miles. Regardless of how well you’ve trained, the last 10K will be tough, and you need to prepare your mind as well as your body.
Having a plan for how you will mentally handle the last 10K will reduce your race anxiety and make those final miles less of an unknown. Here are three mental mantras that I’ve used in marathons, and they’ve helped me stay and run strong all the way to the finish line.
This is what I’ve trained for.
I used to lie to myself when things would get hard during a race. I would tell myself that I loved running and racing, and that I was having fun. But ultimately, that didn’t work. You can’t trick your mind into believing something that you know is not true. It’s going to be hard at the end, so be prepared for that. When the time comes, tell yourself that this is what you’ve trained for. Knowing that you’ve logged miles and miles worth of training runs over the past few months for this one moment will help give you the confidence to push on.
Most people run marathons because they enjoy a challenge and the satisfaction that comes with achievement. However, most people do not “enjoy” the last 10K. Set realistic expectations about how you will feel during those final miles, so that if it starts to hurt or get hard, you won’t be discouraged. Trust your training.
It’s just temporary.
Tell yourself over and over again that it’s just temporary. The satisfaction that you will receive from finishing the race will be permanent, and you just need to get through this temporary period of discomfort. Sometimes I just repeat the word “temporary” over and over again, so it creates a rhythm and I can just run on autopilot.
Do not look at your watch to figure out how much longer you’ll be running. Focus on getting to the next mile marker, or even to a physical point that you can see up ahead, like a lamp post, and repeat to yourself over and over again that what you feel is just temporary. Slowing down or stopping will only prolong the pain, so don’t make that an option. The fastest way out of it is through it.
You may not feel strong during that last 10K. You may feel tired and you may want to stop more than anything else in the world. This is when I visualize Olympic marathoners and how strong they look during the last 10K. I repeat over and over again “strong” or “run strong” and I remind myself that running strong is the most important thing I need to be doing. Don’t worry about your pace. Repeat the word “strong” over and over again, creating a rhythm for yourself.
I once ran a marathon and I saw other runners around me looking somewhat clumsy. I told myself that I didn’t want to look that way– I wanted to look strong. And I kept repeating “strong not clumsy” over and over again in my mind until I finished, and it totally worked. (Although chances are, I probably looked clumsy too!)
Don’t get caught off guard mentally during that last 10K. Prepare for it to be hard. Think of yourself as someone who pushes through rough patches and have these mantras in your back pocket. Remember that the mind will give out before the body will, so don’t let your mind be the limiting factor.