Half-marathon training: it’s mental 

It may be half the distance, but it’s 100% of the effort. I’m training for my first (and hopefully not last) half marathon which I’ll run with my sister on 18th October along the River Thames in Elmbridge and Surrey. Like all HMs, it’s 13.1 miles, yet the furthest I’ve ever run is 8 miles, which was last week. I’ve completed almost 100 5km parkruns so feel pretty fit… but my mental approach is therefore based on a ‘less than half an hour it’ll all be over’ mantra, and this clearly isn’t going to work for this run and the associated training.  I have had to adapt a different approach to survive mentally; the physical side sort of takes care of itself once your brain is engaged and saying yes.  I know, there are people reading this who regularly run long distances, but for me the jump from 3.1 miles to 13.1 miles is a biggish deal.

So, when I’m at mile 4 and starting to feel like I’ve had enough, out comes the box of mental tricks. Tactics that I have found useful include not looking at my watch until I reach certain landmarks (my 7 mile run to work (yes you read that correctly) took me through four villages/towns!), relaxing enough to take in the view, saying hi to fellow Sunday morning joggers, rowers, anglers, dog walkers…  running along the Thames in Surrey is beautiful and should be appreciated! However, sometimes this is not enough. When my feet hurt, my knee twinges, a stitch threatens, I’m generally uncomfortable, too hot, too tired, too bored, I dig deep and mentally picture…

  • The finish line on the day, hugging my sister, taking a sweaty selfie
  • My daughters, mum and dad cheering me on (my other half is unlikely to be there since the Rugby World Cup quarter-final takes place the night before, and he has tickets)
  • Celebrating with my fellow parkrunners and Shepperton Running Group – pub, anyone?
  • The medal! I love medals
  • Achieving my target time of sub-2 hours – which I’ll only get if I train 🙂
  • Telling everyone I did it
  • The atmosphere, support and adrenaline
  • Immense relief and pride for all the graft I put in over 10 weeks

…and if I’m still questioning why I am doing all this, I recall one of my favourite motivators by George S Patten: “Accept challenges, so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory”.

It really is a mental thing, running.

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