Mental Preparation for the Britain's Ocean City Half Marathon
When talking about distance running, it is common to hear people say that it is “all in the head” or that it
is “mind over matter”. There is truth in this. Having a good mind-set plays an important role in
perseverance during long-distance events. Whether your goal is to finish, to achieve a time, or to place
well in the standings, there are things that you can do to help you get your mind-set right. Based on
research evidence, we have four suggestions for you:
Control the ‘controllables’ before attending the half marathon. Simple considerations, such as preparing
yourself a packing checklist, researching likely road closures and congestion that could make you late,
aiming to arrive that little bit earlier, and knowing where to park, register, and use the loos could save
you stress, anxiety, and frustration on the day. You may also find it useful to review course information to
learn things like locations of water stops or where to find pace teams at the event.
Be flexible with your goals. It is common for runners to have one “do or die” goal. Having a goal, such as
to finish in 2 hours, can be very motivating for some, but it can sometimes be a source of negative thoughts
and feelings of disappointment when things don’t go quite to plan. Setting a goal time as a range, such as
to finish between 1 hour 55 and 2 hours 05, allows flexibility should you have a great day or a bad day.
Many runners also like the idea of having three different levels of goals for the race.
A dream goal: What you aspire to achieve under perfect conditions?
A good-day goal: What would you be happy with if things go less than perfectly?
An acceptable goal: What would you be satisfied with, if things do not go as expected?
Use your self-talk as a weapon. By self-talk, we mean those things that you say to yourself out loud or in
your own head. Intentionally saying motivational things to yourself during exercise can help you to overcome
exertion and pain, and to persevere for longer (e.g., to help you get further up a hill before walking!) or
sustain a faster pace that translates to a faster finishing time. Saying positive things to yourself after
encountering adversities, such as falling behind your good-day goal or running in awful weather, may also be
important for remaining focused and motivated.
Plan in advance how you will cope with adversity. Sport psychologists call this “if-then planning”, because
it is about planning what you will do if something happens. Your planned responses could relate to your
thinking (“If the weather is awful, then I will adjust my goal”) or your actions (“If I feel more tired than
expected, then I will drop my pace”). If-then planning could help you to respond quickly and effectively to
the challenges encountered before and during the half marathon. You may find it helpful to identify the most
likely adversities—perhaps from your own experience, by asking someone experienced, or by doing your
research (e.g., reading blog posts on the half marathon)—and planning in-then responses for all of them. You
may also find it helpful to visualise encountering and successfully coping with each of these adversities.