Catherine Wilding is a 2:49 marathon runner who started running in 2003 and ran her first marathon in 2005. Two years later she was competing in the women’s elite race in London and toed the start line as part of the elite women’s field in New York, so she knows a thing or two about preparing for a marathon. She has very kindly taken the time to give some advice for those looking forward to the Virgin London Marathon this weekend as well as all marathoners with a race just around the corner. If you have any comments or questions about Catherine’s advice please put them in the comments section and I’ll see if Catherine will answer them.
Marathon Day Tips
Sunday 22nd April is going to be the most exciting day of the year for you. You can already congratulate yourself on a very big achievement: Being fit and healthy and ready to toe the start line with a smile on your face. However, you may now be starting to wonder what exactly awaits you on Sunday.
Your training will have prepared you physically for the 26.2 mile challenge. For most of you it will have been a story of tiredness, aching muscles and mental anguish. In the process, you will have built a huge amount of mental strength, having become accustomed to dragging yourself out of the door with little motivation and in all sorts of inclement weather. Whether you realise it or not, this dedication will give you the focus needed to get to the finish line. The race isn’t done yet but the hard work is now behind you and you will be able to draw on this during the race. The bit no-one tells you, is that the marathon itself is the easy part.
The marathon is as much an emotional challenge as it is a physical one. It will be a roller-coaster of a journey with nerves, excitement, exhilaration, pain, frustration, determination but finally a huge sense of achievement as you cross the finish line. You have already begun that journey and the marathon itself is the last step on your journey.
What to do in the last few days
With just a few days to go, you should now be focusing on getting yourself mentally prepared. You will have been given all sorts of advice on pace, preparation, nutrition and injury prevention but don’t underestimate the power of the mind. You will run the first 20 miles of the race with your legs and the last 6.25 with your mind. The body will start to tire as you run out of glycogen but as human beings we have the emotional and mental strength to push ourselves beyond what we think is possible. Take some time in the next few days to visualise yourself running strongly along the Embankment and finally down the Mall towards the finish line. Remember how you felt on your best training run or during your best race and keep that feeling and that image in your mind. Have a mantra which you can repeat to yourself in those last few miles when your legs will be begging you to stop, but your mind will keep you going. Tell yourself you can do it and visualise yourself crossing the finish line.
Remember that even the most experienced runners get nervous before the start. There will be a lot of nervous energy and excitement on the morning of the race. Revel in it. This will get your adrenalin going and ready for the race of your life.
Our friend Simon Freeman wrote a brilliant race report recently which resonated with me as a runner:
check numbers… twice
grin nervously at fellow runners
get out of comfort zone
stay out of comfort zone
try to not get passed in last 200m
whoop for joy
realise actual time
still smile from ear-to-ear
start thinking about the next race…
Admittedly, Simon was reporting on a 3K race. You have the challenge of running 42K on Sunday but I think the above summarises brilliantly what most of you will experience.
Finally, enjoy the excitement and exhilaration of the day – you are about to take part in one of the greatest and most iconic sporting events.