Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Top 5 Best-Ever Marathon Tips

In the past five years, I’ve done five stand-alone marathons – seven if you count the marathon that is within the Ironman. It’s not like I’m an expert or anything, but I have been around the block a few times (and not just marathoning…I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination).

Over the years I’ve gotten a crap load of advice (both solicited and unwanted) from millions of sources. What to eat. How and where to poop. How to avoid excessive gas. How to be mentally strong. What to wear. What not to wear. How to pace. How to avoid chaffing. How to pose at the finish line (don’t look at your watch). How to avoid hitting the wall.

Yet within the plethora of advice that has been offered to me via books, blogs, articles and experienced runners, I’ve come up with my own list. These tips are mental, not physical in nature. That’s because by the time you get to the start line of a marathon, you should have trained enough that your body can go the distance. What is left is how you cope with your mind. Believe me when I say it is your best friend or your worst enemy.

1. Know pain is temporary. Before my first marathon I had no clue if I could go the distance. I was terrified. I had never even done a half marathon. I searched everywhere for inspiration. One quote that stuck with me was “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.” We are miserable in a marathon because we are pushing beyond our limits.  We have all been at that point of agony where we are DONE and SICK of doing what we are doing. We want nothing more in the world than to stop. We wonder if it is worth it. We wonder why we are doing this.  This is the exact time when I bring the above quote to mind.

I think about the miles and minutes I have left in the race. I tell myself that I can do anything for an hour. I tell myself that I have only  two 5Ks to go. I visualize myself at the end of the race, medal around my neck, hugging my family. I remember how I want to feel in that moment. Proud. I push on.

crying

The end of the Colorado Marathon when I got my BQ. Hugging my mom.

2. Change it up.  When you are really struggling - to the point where you are not sure you can push on, do something –ANYTHING - differently. Change up something in your form such as increasing or decreasing cadence. Try an orange slice from a spectator. Walk for a few seconds. Put in your music. Notice the scenery. Grunt hello to a fellow runner. I use this “change it up” technique all of the time. It works because it distracts you from the pain and the many miles you have ahead. It also alters your physical and mental statuses ever so slightly, but enough to give a boost.

3. Embrace the Suck. Expect to be uncomfortable and don’t let it psyche you out. It must be something inherent in the human condition that when we feel discomfort, we think we need to quit. We think something is wrong. I would argue that the opposite is true. Discomfort is a signal to us that we are pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone and that can be a beautiful thing. That push is the reason that our sense of accomplishment is what it is after a race. My guess is that the most successful runners have learned how to accept suffering. They expect it. When the agony comes, and it will, acknowledge it but don’t let it break you – “Yep, here you are you mother f&cker. I knew you’d show up. Let’s finish this thing.”

4. Don’t get ahead of yourself. One of the worst things we can do at the start of a marathon is think about the 26.1 miles we have left to go. The brain simply cannot accept that kind of distance and it will want to tell you that you cannot do it. It will play tricks on you such as “Dude, you are only at mile 3 and you are already breathing hard. You’ll never finish this race.” When I am in a long distance race like a marathon or an Ironman I have to stay in the moment in order to survive. I’ve got my strategy in place for the race, but every mile is its own mile, its own set of successes and challenges.

5. Be grateful. I know I say this all the time, but I believe gratitude is the emotion that can change your attitude and perspective in a split second. Take in your day. You have worked hard to be here. Know that you are in the top .17% who has completed a marathon in the U.S.  (541,000 out of 316 million people in 2013). Your body is letting you do this. Your family and friends support you. Your mind is strong. Be thankful for all of it. In that moment when you are suffering and you think you might not make it to the finish, quietly whisper (or scream) “Thank you”.

EW1A9852

The end of Ironman Boulder. My form sucks. Who cares.
I’m grateful I can still move.

 

What’s your best marathon tip?

SUAR

35 comments:

  1. I love the saying "Embrace the suck." Some days that is the only way to get through the day much less a marathon!!!
    I'm beyond impressed that you can do a handstand or cartwheel after an Ironman!!!

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  2. Haha! What a random solicitation! :) Love this post! When I'm feeling pain during a marathon I think about all the people that are in the hospital or have terminal illnesses that would give anything to switch places with me. I'm able to breathe, love, laugh, choose to run, and have my friends/family waiting at the finish. What true blessings all of those things are.

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  3. Marine Corp Marathon 2 weeks! I'm freaking out a little even though I've done it before. Thanks

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  4. Somewhere I cam across "feeling tired - form check". As someone who can struggle to force my body to keep going (strong inbuit sense of self preservation). This really helps get my mind focussed on a task for a few seconds (and when I'm tired, my form is usually sucky and could do with some improvement)

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  5. So timely! I leave for a full in about 30 minutes. I was in bed most of yesterday after eating something "suspect" at brunch, my training has been spotty at best due to SI joint issues, and there's 20 lbs more of me than there was at my last race (note to self: when you're in injury time off, you might want to stop eating like you're still training). I'll need all the mental tricks I can muster today!!!

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  6. Very good tips. :) I always tell people to be sure to soak in the experience. Take out the headphones, listen to the crowd!

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  7. All good points of advice. Also, that last picture of you is... just...the best. Solidifies my bloglove for you.

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  8. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS. I am "running" (run/walk) my first RnR in November and am scared sh*less. Well, not really, because that would mean I wouldn't need the 4 Immodium I will have to take, but you get my point. I LOVE this post. Thank you so much.

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  9. 6: Don't forget the lube... NEVER forget the lube... Or its a John Wayne impersonation for a week after :(

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  10. Remembered your "change it up" comment on my run this morning. Thanks!

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  11. I ran my first marathon today and I finished in 3:59:23, just under my goal time of 4 hours. Two things I learned, trust your training (my longest training run was 22 miles, I really didn't know what was going to happen after that), and Dig Deep! When you hit mile 23 and every muscle in your lower body is screaming at you, dig deep and remember what motivates you to run. I passed so many people walking the last few miles, and I knew I had to keep running! It was awesome I even picked it up and "almost" sprinted to the finish. Kelly B.

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  12. I ran my first half marathon yesterday. It was raining and less than 50 degrees. Definitely not the conditions I was hoping for. But when I felt like I was "finished" I would slap the hands of the spectators along the route or clap and cheer for the bands who played for us along the way. Anything to pick me up. I would also chant "just shut up and run!" Thank you for inspiring me and helping me to the finish line!

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  13. I've never heard of the change it up tip, but it sounds pretty darn smart. Definitely storing that away in my brain to remember on my next tough run or race.
    One of my tips that I try to remember, I guess it goes along with "embrace the suck", is knowing that the moment I want to quit is when change or the breakthrough happens. If I never push past the point of comfort, how will I improve or learn what I'm capable of?

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  14. I suggest over distance- 28-30 in the hills/mountains will make a road marathon seem fairly tame come race day.

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  15. I write the name of someone special to me beside every mile split on my pace band. That way, when things get tough, I have someone to think about. I tell myself, well I won't quit during my parent's miles or my kids miles or the one for my husband or the mile for my Nana who passed away. The last few miles are always for the extra special people. It's a bit corny but it's gotten me to the finish line!

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  16. I have a marathon Sunday (!!!) so I really need to remember 1, 3 and 5. I've faded on miles 17-22-ish of my last two marathons and I need to get better at pushing through the (temporary kind of!) pain.

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  17. I used a similar mantra in my marathon- "Pain is temporary, Pride is forever!" It got me through the times I just wanted to sit on the side of the street and wait for a car! haha! Great post.

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  18. I agree with Rachel ^. I also write the names of folks on my pace band. Really has helped through the last tough miles!

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  19. Oh. Reading this makes me want to try a second marathon.

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  20. Thank you! I am 2.5 weeks away from my second marathon and really questioning whether I have done enough training for the over 15km of hills I will encounter, at altitude. I am going to remember that line....."there you are motherF85ker, I knew you would show up. Now lets get this thing done!" I am surely going to go there and come through the other side.

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  21. Ha! I'm a beginner that just stumbled upon your blog, & I can see these tips working for me, as well. :)

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  22. Hi Beth, I love reading your posts! And this I came across at just the right time....after battling injuries off and on over the past few years I am about to embark on marathon number 3. I have a goal time in mind and thinking about it can at times make me a little nervous. Any advice??

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