You might think, “It’s too far, I won’t make it.” Or, “I’m so slow. I’ll be the last one across the finish line in DC!” Or, “I haven’t trained enough.” Or, “I’ve trained too much.” Or (pick one), “I’m too…old, young, thin, short, tall, fat, bald.” Oh, the crises of confidence that hit in these final weeks before the marathon! They can be enough to keep you awake at night or make even a short training run agonizing.
But here’s the reality: You will finish! You won’t be last! About 98 percent of those who start marathons run, jog, or walk across the finish line. Your goal should be to make the trip as pleasant as possible. Miles of training help, but so does a good mindset.
Here are three tips for helping your mind take your body to the finish line.
Break up the total distance. For real motivation, create short-term goals that will give you a sense of accomplishment during the event, not just at the end. Avoid using the finish line as motivation in the first half or even two-thirds of the marathon, says Ethan Gologor, PhD, chairman and professor of psychology at CUNY and a past captain of the ING New York City Marathon Psyching Team. The finish is too far away to be useful and you might actually lose focus. Likewise, goals that are too close to one another—every mile, for example—will make the race seem endless and tedious, says Gologor. Exactly how you break up the race is up to you. (every five miles? every 10k? you choose!)
Take the focus off of your own feet by thinking about someone else’s. The best place to learn how and why other people are running. When you begin to doubt your own strength, imagine training with a new set of lungs from a transplant surgery. Or consider how motivated you would be if every mile you ran helped raise money for a disease that’s affecting your own child. These are the real experiences of runners who will be in the pack with you on November 11.
Give yourself a reason to continue. When a voice of self-doubt pipes up in your head, don’t take it to heart. Instead, recognize it by saying, “That’s the voice of self-doubt,” then exhale and picture it moving out of your head. It might help to replace the doubt with words of self-belief. Perhaps you need a statement of affirmation at the ready. You can create one. Mine is "My Medal, Hot Shower, Our Team"