10 Mental Tips to Master The Philly Marathon

10 Mental Tips to Master The Philly Marathon

By Stacey Ginesin, Ph.D. & Mitchell Greene, Ph.D.

Mind over marathon. Whether you are training for your first marathon or your twentieth, 26.2 miles is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. Here are a few mental tips to help you master Philadelphia Marathon weekend:

1. Mental preparation is key to success. Make sure you arrive early, know where to park, check your bag, find your corral, and use the bathroom asap. There are security lines at the start of the race that can add extra time to your morning. Some items are not allowed into the start area. Planning ahead can decrease unwanted surprises and stressors and allow you to focus on staying relaxed and ready.

Check out our 2018 Guide to the Philadelphia Marathon to help prepare for race weekend!

2. Visualize the race you want to run (and that you are realistically capable of running). The night before, spend a few minutes in a quiet place with your eyes closed. Many runners benefit from imagining themselves “holding back” at the start, and gradually picking up their pace after a few miles. Still with your eyes closed, visualize yourself moving strongly through tough stretches later in the race, all the while soaking in the energy of the crowd. If it helps, tell yourself that you train hard to race hard

3. Work on developing a pre-race routine. If you have certain rituals before long training runs or hard workouts, you might consider doing the same thing for the Philly marathon/half marathon. Perhaps you like eating a certain breakfast, listening to a particular pump-up song, or doing a familiar easy warm-up. These go-to routines should stay the same for this race. Their familiarity can put you in the frame of mind that says “I’m out for just another long run.”

4. Focus on things that are in your control rather than things you cannot control. You can’t control the weather at the race. It can be cold, warm, rainy, windy (or maybe all during the same race). You can’t do anything about the runners who will start the race in the wrong corral. Worrying about these things takes mental energy away from focusing on your race plan. Of course, reminding yourself this is your form of relaxation away from the job and family should help too! 

5. This is your race; focus on yourself and what you want to get out of the day. It is better to be patient, rather than expending maximum energy chasing people who might ruin your race. Challenge yourself to be a disciplined runner. 

6. When you get tired, you can focus on small, manageable chunks of the race. Break down the 26.2 miles (or 13.1 miles) race into pieces. Instead of thinking about the finish, remind yourself to get to the next mile marker, to the half-way point, the turn-around in Manayunk, or to the next water stop. Some of us like to think about just getting to the beer and brownies around mile 20. Once you hit that marker you may feel better. If not, you can set another new small goal to keep you going.

7. Be prepared for discomfort. Running 13.1 or 26.2 miles for the first time no matter what your pace is not easy. There will be moments where you are uncomfortable and want to slow down and stop. It’s normal to have moments during the race when you don’t think you will be able to do it. That’s when you remind yourself that you have trained for this and can do it.

8. You are NOT in better shape than you think you are. If you feel like you are running a really fast pace the first few miles it probably means you are going too fast; not because you are extra fit. Rein it in. It is best to treat the first few miles as a warm up. Rarely does one bank time at the beginning. You can always speed up at the end if you have extra gas in the tank. At the most recent NYC marathon Kitane won by being conservative in the beginning and picking it up during the end. In the past she has gone out hard and bonked.

9. If you are running the marathon, the last 6 plus miles WILL hurt. Get ready for it. That is what makes the marathon extra special. That’s how you earn your meal and a lifetime of pride.

10. Remember to have fun! This is an amazing race in an amazing city. Enjoy the cheers of the crowd, thank volunteers, and finish with a smile on your face.

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