Marathoning Is Mental

Marathoning is mental — not just in the “crazy” sense but mostly in the “mind over matter” sense.

Here are seven characteristics that prove that marathoning is mental in the latter sense:

#1 – Planning

Marathoning seems to requires more planning than many other sports.

A field sport such as football or soccer requires that you show up at a particular location and train there — and only there — on a given day. In contrast, marathon training requires you to plan your training routes, plan when to start so that you finish a given route at an appropriate time, and so on.
Many sports have several competitive events throughout a sports season, so the training is interspersed with the competitions. In contrast, marathon training requires planning for one “big event” in a season.
Many sports let you compete repeatedly throughout the year without ever leaving town. In contrast, given that most cities host only one marathon a year, if you want to compete more than once a year, then you also must plan for travel.
#2 – Persistence
Marathoning requires persistence in at least three ways:

You must have persistence to finish your long training runs or walks.
You must have persistence to train for six months or more.
You must have persistence to complete a marathon.
#3 – Patience
Marathoning requires patience in at least five ways:

You must be patient to wait six months or more between when you start training and when you compete in a marathon.
You must be patient to wait for sustainable improvements in your speed and endurance.
You must be patient to wait days, weeks, or months while recuperating from a running or walking injury.
You must be patient to wait several minutes for the elite runners to cross a marathon starting line, just so that you, too, can cross it.
You must be patient to wait weeks or months for the next marathon after completing a marathon with results that you do not like.
#4 – Authenticity
Doing something that very few individuals do — training for and completing a marathon — requires authenticity.

How many other sports at times would have you putting in three-to-four-hour training sessions, getting up at 4 a.m. so that you can avoid summer heat, and training in the dark, the cold, and the rain?
How many other sports ask you to sacrifice your Friday evenings so that you can rise early for long training sessions on Saturday mornings?
How many other sports require you to begin to compete in an official event at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning?
“Very few” is the answer to all of these questions. So you must be willing to go against the norm as a marathoner.
#5 – Motivation

Right on the heels of authenticity is motivation. You must have strong motivation to train for and complete a marathon. It is at the same time a group sport and solitary sport, and the solitary part is where your motivation is most tested. You could be marathoning for a cause, as a tribute to someone, or to avoid a family history of a debilitating disease. Or you could be marathoning for the “runners’ high”, because you like to eat, or for the mental challenge that it presents. Whatever “it” is, you must have motivation.

#6 – Introspection

Marathoning requires introspection. You must be brutally honest with yourself about many things, including:

Whether you are completing your core training runs or walks
Whether you are asking for help from training buddies
Whether you are offering help to training buddies and fellow racers
Whether you are paying attention to your running or walking pace
Whether you are hydrating adequately
Whether you are giving yourself sufficient time to recover from injuries
Whether you are taking needed days off
Whether you are cross-training
Whether you are completing speed-work sessions and other supplementary runs or walks
Whether you are eating properly
Whether you are getting enough sleep
Whether you are visualizing
Whether you are stretching adequately
These introspective activities are not necessarily fun. But they are crucial to your success as a marathoner.
#7 – Education

It is nearly impossible to take up the sport of marathoning without learning a lot in the process. Although it seems to non-marathoners that the sport is extremely simple — run or walk 26.2 miles — the reality is that you need a lot of education — about injury prevention, training schedules, cross-training, race-day techniques, and so on — to be successful at training for and completing a marathon.

There you have it: seven characteristics that prove that marathoning is mental — in a good way!

Top 10 Half Marathon Training Tips

1. Make sure you train

Okay, this sounds blindingly obvious and it will be considered foolish to most people to embark on running a Half Marathon without doing any training. However, it does happen and, of course, the people who do so are daft.

There is more to this point than those people silly enough not to train. Firstly, it is important to train specifically for running a Half Marathon. You may be fit already as a result of going to the gym, playing football, swimming etc, but if your body is not conditioned to running long distances on tarmac, over various road contours and in varying weather conditions, then you will not be ready for a Half Marathon run. Even if you are already fit and active, it is important your training is all about running. Well, not quite all, but the vast majority of your training in the months before a Half Marathon should involve running.

Finally, it is important to complete your training schedule and run on every day you are supposed to. Always remember it is those days when do not want to run but do so anyway that will mean the most on race day.

So, whatever your level of fitness or general motivation, this message is important: make sure you train.

2. Pick the right schedule

A Half Marathon Training Schedule is a great way to not only plan your preparation for race day, but to also ensure you do enough training. Half Marathon Training Schedules are tried and tested with every day of training planned out in advance, making it easier to build training sessions into your daily routine.

Selecting the wrong schedule, however, could be disastrous.

Firstly, be realistic about your abilities. It will be incredibly de-motivating to struggle to complete each day’s training. That is an important sentence as a Half Marathon Training is as much about building mental toughness as physical fitness. By completing every day of training (even the rest days), you are one step closer to completing your ultimate goal. The sense of achievement will be particularly pronounced on the days with long distance runs.

To finish this point, it is also important to avoid schedules that are too easy. It is all about finding the balance – you will want a schedule that is challenging enough that you improve as you train while not being so difficult that you cannot complete each day’s run. It is also important to be realistic about the time you can allocate each day to training. It is no use choosing a schedule that will require an average of one hour training every day if your lifestyle does not allow that.

Finally, choose a training schedule that has been designed specifically for Half Marathon preparation. A lot of the schedules on the Internet are designed for those training for full, 26.2 mile marathons. They are often crudely adapted for Half Marathon Training, i.e. by cutting the runs by 50 percent. It is better to choose a schedule designed solely for Half Marathon Training.

3. Choose shoes (and socks) wisely

Your feet are the second most important part of your body to look after during Half Marathon Training. The mind is the most important part, but feet come a close second, before legs, joints, lungs or anything else.

Choosing the right shoes and socks is therefore incredibly important. This is not about individual brands, but rather the process to ensure everything is right on race day. To achieve that aim, choose and buy your shoes and socks at the start of your training. It is a very bad idea to attempt to break-in new gear close to a Half Marathon event. The earlier you select your shoes and socks, the better. At the very least, you will have time to change your mind and buy alternatives if your first choice is not working.

All the leading brands make great running shoes so we do not have a recommendation on specific brands in this article – that is more down to individual choice. The key point is to choose running shoes. Not cross-trainers or shoes designed for any other purpose – just running shoes. Running shoes should fit well and will offer support.

If you find it generally difficult to find comfortable training or running shoes, you could try a Wet Test. Your local running equipment or quality sports shop should do this, and it should be free of charge (if there is a charge do-it-yourself by simply laying white paper on the ground, wetting your feet, and running over it). If the imprint of your foot is shaped like a driver (golf-club terminology), then you have a normal foot and most standard running shoes should be comfortable. If the imprint is more like a thick club-shape, you are flat footed and may need a shoe that has a firm mid-sole. You will want to stop the inward roll of your foot so stay away from shoes that are highly curved, highly cushioned, or do not have much stability.

If the imprint of your foot narrows dramatically in the centre to look like two eyes (or single quotation marks one on top of the other) then you have a high-arched foot. You will need a shoe that is cushioned with lots of flexibility to encourage motion as your foot is not rotating enough.

Finally, we turn to socks. Socks can often be the most overlooked item of clothing for Half Marathon runners. The advice is to buy running socks as they do not move which reduces the possibility of getting blisters. They will often be left and right footed, which helps in this goal. There is nothing worse than dealing with a small, but painfully crippling, blister in the middle of Half Marathon Training, so indulge yourself with a pair of good running socks.

4. Include strength training in your schedule

Leg strength is a key element of Half Marathon Training. It is one of the main factors in determining whether you run the marathon in the time you want. It is also a factor in determining whether you can complete the whole event running, without having to walk.

In preparing for a Half Marathon, many people say they are prepared for the pain and will just run through it. That sort of comment often comes from people who are fit and are therefore used to training. For many of these people, the pain associated with training gives them a buzz and is part of the reason they keep doing it.

When your legs stop working because they are too tired, however, no amount of will-power is going to make them start working again. The only solution is to prepare your legs for a Half Marathon by including as much strength training as you can.

This may sound daunting, but it does not need to be. Strength training can take many different forms, including using a cross training machine at the gym or going to a circuits or spin class. It could also be much simpler, though. You could do plenty of hill work during your normal training runs – the steeper the hill, the better. Or, you could incorporate speed work into your normal training runs.

Any sort of strength training you do will reap benefits on race day.

5. Get in the right frame of mind

Being mentally fit is as important as being physically fit when it comes to being successful in a Half Marathon run. It is no different to any other sport, or in fact any other aspect of life. If you are not in the right frame of mind, it is very hard to achieve your goals.

The most important things is to stay positive throughout your training. Tell yourself every day that you feel good, fit and strong. That may sound silly to some, but it does work. Treat every completed day’s training as an achievement and congratulate yourself for taking another step closer to your goal.

It is hard to stress just how important mental positiveness is to training and completing a Half Marathon. There are hundreds of stories of sportsmen and sports teams who loose despite being more skilled than their opponents. Lack of confidence and poor mental attitude are often to blame. Even for normal people (like the majority of us non-athletes who run Half Marathons) can be affected by not being in the right frame of mind. There are many stories of men and women who run on the day of the Half Marathon far below the standard they were regularly achieving during training.

Of course, mental toughness and a positive attitude will not by themselves get you through a Half Marathon. You will need to do the physical training, but remain positive while doing so and constantly tell yourself you are doing well.

6. Train with others

Half Marathon Training can be a lonely pursuit, particularly when on a long run. Runners do many things to relieve that loneliness (which, occasionally, turns into boredom), including listening to music or radio programmes through headphones (try also listening to audio books as a page-turning bestseller is a great way of getting through a run).

Sometimes just being entertained while running is not enough though. The solution to loneliness, boredom and low motivation is obvious – run with others.

You will have to make sure the person or people you plan to run with are at the same level of training as you. You will not want to be held up by a running partner who cannot keep up with you, and similarly you will not want the strain of running faster than you are comfortable with so as to keep up with a quicker partner.

One final thing on this point – running with others does not necessarily mean running with other people. Dogs make great running companions and are the partner of choice for many in training.

7. Fund raise until you can’t fund raise anymore

There are two main reasons for fundraising ahead of running a Half Marathon. The obvious first reason is that charities and good causes will benefit from your efforts. This is of particular importance if your chosen charity has had a personal influence on your life. If it was not for the millions raised around the world every year by people running Half Marathons, charities would be much worse off.

The other reason for fundraising is much more selfish. If you use your Half Marathon entry to fund raise, you will be under a greater obligation to compete on the day and ultimately complete the race. Following directly from this sense of obligation will be a greater motivation to train. It will no longer be just a personal decision of whether you feel too tired on a particular day to train as another thing on your mind will be not letting down the charity you have selected, or the people who have committed to give you money on completion of the event. That could be enough to keep your training going when motivation is low.

8. Stay hydrated

Studies have shown that being as little as 2 percent dehydrated can have a negative effect on your running performance. Being dehydrated can make you run slower and may make you feel sluggish and light-headed. You may also start to cramp. It is therefore important to make sure you take on enough fluids while Half Marathon Training.

Fluid intake should start before your training run. Ideally one to two hours before the training session where possible and the amount you should take should be between 8 and 16 ounces (250mls to 500mls). Throughout the training session, the same amount of fluids should be taken for roughly every 30 minutes of training. This should be done by sipping rather than gulping down large amounts or you will just find that you will need to go to the toilet.

The type of drink you choose is down to personal choice, but it should be cold rather than warm. Water works well, as do sports drinks.

You may need to plan your fluid intake on training runs. Such planning has been shown in studies to improve performance. There is a more practical reason for planning in that when training, you are on your own and will need to carry enough drink to get you through to the end of the run. It will be different on race day when often the organisers will have drink stations throughout the course route.

Finally, it is important to drink after your training run. The amount you will need will vary depending on how strenuous your training run was. As a guide, you should drink enough so that you will have to go to the toilet within about an hour of finishing your run.

9. Sleep and eat well

This may be common sense, but for many people living busy lives it can be a challenge. As much as it is possible, meals should contain high energy, non-processed food. Heavy, starchy meals will feel like a lump in your stomach so should be avoided. Fruit and vegetables should be eaten as much as possible.

You should eat at least 30 minutes before your training session, more if it is a larger meal. Also try to use the toilet just before going out for your run as it is not just about putting good fuel into your body – having a system that works well is also important.

Sleeping well is also critical. Because of the modern and demanding lives many of us lead, it is not always possible to get 8 hours sleep every night. However, your Half Marathon Training will progress better if you get plenty of rest. Your body needs time to relax and recuperate when going through a Half Marathon Training Schedule, and sleeping is the best way to give your body this time.

10. Try everything before race day

Everything you have read in these Top 10 Half Marathon Training tips, and every other piece of advice you get when preparing for your race, should be tried well in advance of the event. Do not, for example, buy a new pair of running shoes a week or two before your race. In fact, do not do anything in the week or two before the race that you have not done many times during your training.

The clothes you plan to wear on race day should be worn on training runs – if it is going to chafe, it is better you find that out well in advance. This applies to everything, from your underwear to your t-shirt; your socks to your hat.

The fluid you plan to drink during the race should be used while on all training runs, and if you plan to use energy gels make sure you try them in training long before race day. Before long training runs you should also try to eat the food you are planning to eat before the event.

Finally, most Half Marathon events take place in the morning. If possible, train at a similar time of day, particularly on your long training runs.

4 Tips For Running a Better Marathon

In a recent interview I was asked what advice I would give someone training for a marathon. That’s a great questions, because I have so much advice about how to train for a marathon that I wrote a book on it!

One of the big things that I recommend to the athletes that I coach is to find out as much as you can about the course ahead of time, and to simulate that sort of terrain in your training. If you are going to run a local race, then get out on the course itself for your long runs and make use of your home course advantage.

If you are going to run on a hilly course, don’t wait until the last week of training to incorporate hills in your training. If you are going to run on a flat course, then don’t ignore hills during your workouts but don’t worry if you spend most of the week running on even terrain. If you are going to run a trail marathon, do the bulk of your training on trails; if it is a road marathon, then make sure you get at least a few runs per week and a long run every couple of weeks on the roads.

Make a race plan for what you want to accomplish during the marathon. I think that one of the worst ideas that people have going into a race is that they just want to finish. Not having a solid goal to reach for doesn’t give you something to gauge your progress against as you progress through the race, which in my experience makes it easier for you to give up and dog the later miles when things aren’t going so well. If you had a goal time when you feel like dogging it, then you could look at where you are, see you are ahead of that time and try to keep ahead, or you could see you were behind that time and do whatever you can to make up some lost ground.

In that vein, have multiple goals. You should have one goal that is going to be difficult to achieve, one goal that should be pretty realistic, and a minimal goal that constitutes success. For example, the first time that I ran the Cox Sports Marathon, my stretch goal was a 2:37 (sub-6:00/mile pace), my realistic goal was 2:45, and my minimum goal was a personal best. I didn’t reach my stretch goal that day, but I made my other two goals and was able to set the course record with my win.

If you have to have a “Just Finish” goal, then set that as your minimal goal. If you don’t know what sort of times you are capable of, then go to a track and do a mile time trial and then hop onto the internet to use one of the multiple race calculators that are available for estimating how long your race should take. Jack Daniels, Jeff Galloway and the McMillan Calculator are all great ways to extrapolate that mile time trial into an equivalent effort marathon time. Those things can be scarily accurate.

My last piece of advice is to make sure that you don’t look at failure as a bad thing. It’s okay to fail and to not make your goals. Treat it as a learning experience, look forward to the next goal, and do whatever you can to achieve that.

After I failed to make my 5k goals one Summer, people tried to console me by telling me that I still ran good times and had competitive races. And I did; I enjoyed the process and it was all worth doing. Still, the end result was a failure. The next time I try to run a fast 5k, I will have a better idea of what to do and what not to do.

Vital Preparation Before Marathon Day

Finishing a marathon does not only require skill, but techniques as well. Especially in full length 42 kilometer runs, wit and strategies must be implemented to ones self in order to finish the race.

In a marathon, the general principle of most of the runners is not to compel ones self to win the race, but finishing the entire course is definitely a must. In order to aid them to reach such goal, the primary key during the course is to keep ones self hydrated. It is advisable for participants to take a sip from every water station provided by organizers of the race.

Marathon runners in fact have so much to choose from, there are a lot of races available in different categories. A race approach and preparation is very important for a winning marathon run except you are bodily exceptional that you can just run timely and finish the full 42km.

A lot of runners not make the grade to complete a marathon, and not succeed to accomplish their objective period for the simple reason that they are not prepared. To do well in a marathon, runner must undergo a strong period of working out to build up strength and endurance to be able to learn your physical limitations.

After the training, that is the time you will run and when the marathon day arrived this is the basic tip that I can give you. For 42 kilometer runners, a spare pair of shoes is also sometimes used halfway the course. This is due to the reason that uncomfortable warmth from the first pair of shoes can be felt halfway as an effect of the friction accumulated during the start of the race until the distances halfway.

What to Expect the Day Before the Cox Sports Marathon

In 2008, I won the inaugural Cox Sports Marathon in Providence, Rhode Island. If you are ever planning on running, here is what you can expect the day before the race at the expo and pasta dinner so you’ll know what you might be in for as you prepare for your marathon.

The weekend began with an expo over where the starting line for the half marathon and the marathon was going to be. Registration and packet pickup was inside of a building off to the side of the green, but the pasta dinner tickets and the t-shirt pickup were outside on the green along with a handful of vendors.

It would have made things a little less confusing to have them lined up in a row or at least in the same general areas, but given the relatively few people that were there when I stopped by in the early afternoon it was not too bad and it did not take me too long to figure out what to do.

One problem that I had for the pasta dinner tickets was that there was no way to accept credit cards at the expo itself. I know that you could use them if you ordered them online, but given my unique problems finding a place to stay before the race I didn’t know until the night before that I was going to be going to the pasta dinner and I assumed that I would be able to swipe my card. I could have brought a check, but I didn’t, and had to pay cash.

The other problem that I had was that directions to the pasta dinner were not provided where the tickets were picked up, and I had no idea how to get there.

Finding the pasta dinner took me a little while. It was about a third of a mile from my hotel, and after checking in I went for a jig jog to loosen up my legs and to see if I could find it. I used a combination of looking at the official race program for the name of where it was (Snowden Hall) along with the fuzzy directions given to me by the guys that sold me the ticket. This was the first time that I had been in Providence and hadn’t even been to my hotel yet when they gave me the directions, so I didn’t do very well following them.

That left asking for directions to Weybosset Street under the assumption that that would be easier to identify and that people in the area might know where that was. Unfortunately, the only person who knew where it was happened to be on the other side of the river, so I failed to find it using his directions by the time I got anywhere near the road. Nobody else knew where it was even when I was only a block or two away.

I did eventually find it, and it was pretty much a straight shot of walking out my hotel door and not stopping until I got there.

There were about 30 to 40 people at the first session of the pasta dinner. The food was not bad, but it was not all that particularly great either. There was plenty of it, though, and I was happy to eat my fill.

I sat down with the first person that I saw was eating alone, a woman from Illinois who ran her first marathon back in the late 90s, swore off of them, and then in 2006 decided to try and run a marathon in all 50 states. Since then, she had run in over 30 marathons in different states, along with numerous shorter races.

Bill Rodgers and Geoff Smith were the keynote speakers at the dinner, both of whom are well known runners in the area and combine to have won 6 Boston marathons and numerous other marathons throughout their careers. They gave a very interesting talk that detailed the changes that the sport has gone through since the 1960s and their thoughts on how bringing money into the sport has improved it in recent years. There was no microphone, so it got a little difficult to hear them at times over the ambient noises of people eating and the occasional young child screaming.

On the way out the door from dinner, they gave away bags of chocolates. I almost refused one since I don’t eat chocolate, but thought better of it at the last minute. It’s always good to score some brownie points with the wife with some extra chocolates.

It would have made things a little less confusing to have them lined up in a row or at least in the same general areas, but given the relatively few people that were there when I stopped by in the early afternoon it was not too bad and it did not take me too long to figure out what to do.

One problem that I had for the pasta dinner tickets was that there was no way to accept credit cards at the expo itself. I know that you could use them if you ordered them online, but given my unique problems finding a place to stay before the race I didn’t know until the night before that I was going to be going to the pasta dinner and I assumed that I would be able to swipe my card. I could have brought a check, but I didn’t, and had to pay cash.

The other problem that I had was that directions to the pasta dinner were not provided where the tickets were picked up, and I had no idea how to get there.

Finding the pasta dinner took me a little while. It was about a third of a mile from my hotel, and after checking in I went for a jig jog to loosen up my legs and to see if I could find it. I used a combination of looking at the official race program for the name of where it was (Snowden Hall) along with the fuzzy directions given to me by the guys that sold me the ticket. This was the first time that I had been in Providence and hadn’t even been to my hotel yet when they gave me the directions, so I didn’t do very well following them.

That left asking for directions to Weybosset Street under the assumption that that would be easier to identify and that people in the area might know where that was. Unfortunately, the only person who knew where it was happened to be on the other side of the river, so I failed to find it using his directions by the time I got anywhere near the road. Nobody else knew where it was even when I was only a block or two away.

I did eventually find it, and it was pretty much a straight shot of walking out my hotel door and not stopping until I got there.

There were about 30 to 40 people at the first session of the pasta dinner. The food was not bad, but it was not all that particularly great either. There was plenty of it, though, and I was happy to eat my fill.

I sat down with the first person that I saw was eating alone, a woman from Illinois who ran her first marathon back in the late 90s, swore off of them, and then in 2006 decided to try and run a marathon in all 50 states. Since then, she had run in over 30 marathons in different states, along with numerous shorter races.

Bill Rodgers and Geoff Smith were the keynote speakers at the dinner, both of whom are well known runners in the area and combine to have won 6 Boston marathons and numerous other marathons throughout their careers. They gave a very interesting talk that detailed the changes that the sport has gone through since the 1960s and their thoughts on how bringing money into the sport has improved it in recent years. There was no microphone, so it got a little difficult to hear them at times over the ambient noises of people eating and the occasional young child screaming.

On the way out the door from dinner, they gave away bags of chocolates. I almost refused one since I don’t eat chocolate, but thought better of it at the last minute. It’s always good to score some brownie points with the wife with some extra chocolates.