Mentally prepare for the course. Given that Melbourne is a point-to-point Marathon, I like to break the run up into segments and give myself a goal for each (see below)
Eat foods that are familiar, easy to digest and high in energy – carbohydrates are a source that the body can break down quickly and easily.
Lay out your marathon shoes, singlet & shorts, socks & underwear, race bib & pins, watch, sunnies, hat, anti-chafe cream, snacks, sunscreen etc. the night before so that you don’t forget anything in your ‘potentially’ nervous state on Sunday morning.
Be excited. When I line up for a Marathon race I tell myself, “it’s time to reap the rewards”. The months of preparation required for such an event are physically, mentally and emotionally challenging with often a cup of coffee and an endorphin rush to celebrate a hard session. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good post-run cappuccino but it doesn’t compare to the feeling of moving across the finish line after 42.195km.
Override your feelings of doubt with positive self talk when the going gets tough. Remind yourself of the training runs you completed when you seriously thought you wouldn’t... imagine yourself being energised by the quality fuel you have taken on... picture the special people who have helped you to this point and who are no doubt thinking of you too - or are ready to cheer for you somewhere along the course.
Utilise the participants around you as a source of inspiration and energy. Pick a runner ahead and gradually try to bridge the gap between you. Encourage other runners who appear to be going through a tough patch - see their appreciation and enjoy the feeling of empowerment that comes with helping others. Show your gratitude to a supporter in the crowd with a smile or even just a quick glance or nod.
Run with purpose. Remind yourself of why you took on this journey in the first place...was it a personal health goal? Was it to raise money or awareness for a meaningful cause? This will help you to maintain focus and perspective to stay mentally tough when you need to.
Never underestimate the power of adrenaline and new-found energy that will carry you in the final kilometer. When you enter “The G” (and if you are fortunate to see the faces of your family members / friends / coach) it is likely that the pain will seem irrelevant. For many, this is the feeling we run for and it’s important to soak it up. Enjoy the moment and let the emotions flow.
Embrace the unexpected challenges that are inevitable on Marathon Day. Examples include needing to go to the toilet at an inconvenient time, missing a gel, feeling a stitch or cramp, having a shoe lace come undone, feeling discomfort or rubbing where you haven’t before, experiencing the sharpness that comes with a new blister or broken toe nail. Maintaining an open mind helps us to avoid panic and respond effectively. These challenges are all part of the experience and over-coming them makes the end result more satisfying. ALL THE BEST ON SUNDAY : ).
In 2015 I divided the run into 4 parts and made the following mental notes for each.
Part 1 (Start to Albert Park). Find my rhythm along St. Kilda road.
Part 2 (Albert Park loop to Port Melbourne). Enjoy the familiarity and think of it as another training run around Albert Park but this time with crowds and support.
Part 3 (Port Melbourne to Fitzroy road). Potentially a bit breezy and likely to be the most challenging part mentally after half way. Aim to stay as relaxed as possible and focus on maintaining a consistent strong pace. *I arranged to have my family on course at Elwood for the extra support when I needed it
Part 4 (Fitzroy to finishing in the MCG). A bit of an uphill challenge to break up the rhythm and then back along St. Kilda road but this time at the business end. Draw energy from the crowds and use their cheers to help drive your legs up the final steep climb to Domain road. Enjoy a downhill roll before the excitement and reward of entering the MCG – let yourself go.