Personally I’m at week 13 of my marathon programme and I’m feeling a general “what is the point?” kind of of vibe creeping into everything. I’ve cobbled together some tips to help anyone in a similar position stay motivated…. Hang in there!
1. Ramp your training up until taper point
If you have 2-3 weeks left you need to make the most of them. NEVER EVER eat into your taper time trying to make up for lost training. Now is this is the time to push your comfort zone. If you are thinking:
“I’m getting better at running 20 miles, I’m not even dreading this Sunday’s one.”
then why not go faster? Or why not run 22 miles? Or running with a heavy pack?
Work work work! Train train train! Hurt hurt hurt! This isn’t the local 5km park run. By the end of the last week you want to be thinking:
“I hate running. I hate running shoes, running tracks and runners. I hate the word run. I hate three letter words. Except cat. Cats are cute. And unpredictable. And amusingly selfish. I can’t take this level of training on both a mental physical and spiritual level. I’d rather die than run another week like this.”
Perfect! Now you are ready to taper it down. That is what this “taper” bit is for. And a taper is 2-3 weeks. Don’t make it smaller. This would be “my” (Pfitzingers) suggestion on how to taper.
2. Book your post marathon meal
You’ve suffered. You’ve sacrificed. You’ve given things up. You’ve put your partner through hell. You’ve bored your partner senseless talking about lap splits and intervals. Now it is time to plan to let your hair down. Now is the time to give something back to your nearest and dearest and yes, to yourself. Pick your favourite restaurant, order your favourite bottle of wine and take out your wonderful partner who has supported you and been there for your as you whine about injuries and force you both to eat lentils and go to bed early. Even if he/she has to help you into the restaurant and him/her and the waiter have to lower you down onto the chair (me last year), it will still be a wonderful time! If there is ever a time to let your hair down, drink what you like and eat what you like, it is after a marathon.
3. Plan something fun with your running mates
For all those people that have been running with a running club, it is important to realise that the merry band of brave bold adventurers that make up the club are people that you’ve been spending one hell of a lot of time with! If your club has a regular meetup day (say Tuesday), set aside that day and meet the people in your club and have lunch with them in the sun. You can swap post-marathon anecdotes and enjoy each-others company without the panting, sweat, snot and drool! Personally, I’m going to make brownies. Then after we have finished our lunch in the sun we are going to eat brownies. Yum.
4. It may be 26 miles… But it is the last 26
By the time I run this bl**dy thing, I’ll have trained for around 800 miles. When I get to 20 miles and I’m in pieces, that last 6.2 miles will seem daunting. But for me it isn’t really the last the last 6.2 miles of 26.2, it is the last 6.2 miles of 800. So I’m going to turn myself inside out to run them the best I can. Every run before the marathon has been:
“Oh, only 1 mile to go. Then x more runs of x left until the big day.”
Whereas on the big day it is 6.2 miles to go and FINISHED. Over. Fini. Caput. Terminado! For me this will be a big motivator.
5. Watch Biggest Loser shows
You run with other runners. You talk about running with other runners. This gives you a skewed negative view on what you have achieved and how amazing it is. Watch Australia’s Biggest Loser. You’ll see a 20-stone man carrying another 20-stone man 100m in a wheelbarrow. Then one of them will break down in tears with a speech about:
“I never believed I could ever have achieved what hIjust achieved 2 months ago and I’m SO proud of myself!”
and this will be the guy that was lying in the wheelbarrow! Just for doing the marathon you are already in a top percentage. Chin up.
6. Trust your training
I used to play classical guitar. There were times when I played it very little but when I got closer to an exam I would start to practise seriously for one hour a day. I noticed that when I played infrequently I was very pleased with the way I played and the sound that I was getting. Conversely I noticed that when I was playing all the time I was never impressed with my playing. But don’t get me wrong, my playing was a hell of a lot better when I was practising every day.
Basically, I found that the more I would practice, the more I would demand from myself, and the more gradual my improvement would be. And because this improvement is so gradual, I didn’t really notice it. It is the same with running. If you are running 5 times a week then you are so tired and absorbed in the process that it is actually hard to notice whether you have got any better or not. Trust me you have. Structured training works, but it doesn’t work right away, so you won’t see the results until race day. You might really surprise yourself. Until then, head down and keep working.
7. The journey is the destination
In my first marathon I was hoping to run faster than 3:10. I completely fell to pieces and managed 3:19. Before I raced I stated that if I did a time over 3:15 that “it wouldn’t matter and there was no point”. When I crossed the line at 3:19 I was ecstatic. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Ultimately, however well you do you will always gain something from the experience of preparing for a marathon. You will gain insight into a world, learn new things, test yourself, make friends and broaden your horizons. Before you started preparing for a marathon how many of you knew about:
- IT Bands
- Lactate Threshold
- The 6 running routes that exist around your work