Cupcake11 asks: How to prepare yourself mentally for a marathon?
Hi Cupcake 11 –
As a general rule, we pups are sprinters, not long-distance runners. Yes you might have read, or seen the movie, of Lassie Come Home, where an amazing dog travels countless miles to get to her home, but that’s not our usual story. And she was walking!
So I need to consider what it would be like to run a marathon, and base it on the more difficult journeys of my life – like hospitalizations or training classes.
Of course, with a marathon, or Lassie’s journey, the most important issue is your physical strength. Training has to focus on getting your knees and ankles and hamstrings and calves and toes and hips and everything else in you to be so strong they can handle an insanely long journey.
When it comes to the mental side of that training, I would say your big job is to focus your training on the fun side of it (how great it’ll feel to accomplish, and the joyous high one gets from continued exercise) instead of just avoiding failure and pain. Either mindset will encourage you to train, but one sounds a lot more enjoyable, and makes the training a fun activity instead of a grueling assignment.
But besides the simple physical training, you’re absolutely right, there’s a mental training that’s also necessary, just to get through the long time that a marathon takes. How do you keep from getting bored? How do you keep from deciding you have other things to do? I have no doubt that the easiest way to manage that is to train with others – whether one or two good friends or a big group. First, being with them will keep you from thinking “No one can do this, I’m gonna quit,” but also they’ll give you someone to share the experience with, “I couldn’t believe it when we’d been sweltering in that heat and suddenly we got flooded with rain!” And hopefully to have fun talking about, even bragging about, all you’ve done.
And third, I would say to focus as much as you can on what you hope to achieve. Why are you running this marathon? Are you collecting money for charity? Are you trying to improve your health? Do you want to impress someone? Or is it just to prove to yourself that you can?
I’m not going to tell you any of these reasons isn’t a good one. Instead I’m suggesting you put lots of focus on your reason. Write it down and hang it on your wall. Draw a picture of it and keep it in your school locker so you see it every time you have to get a book. Write down every success you have (Yesterday you ran ten kilometers, but today you ran eleven!).
Can you give yourself rewards for accomplishment? When you pass one goal, have some ice cream? When you pass another, get that outfit you’ve wanted?
The fact is, you’re doing something amazing. And you can take it even further. My human Handsome has a friend from his childhood who now has a hobby of participating in hundred-mile runs. That’s like doing FOUR marathons, all in the same day! And he’s a joyous guy, doing this not because he needs to improve his health, but because he absolutely loves doing it.
Now you might find that you love doing this marathon, or that you hate it. Either way, for the rest of your life, you’ll always be able to say you’ve done it. And, to me, that’s the best mental preparation you can have for it. To just remind yourself of that, over and over.
And when you’ve done it, and you choose whether to do another one, you’ll have to find another mental trick – because you will never again be able to run your first one.
And that’s just so cool I’m running in circles thinking about it!
Best of Luck! Let me know how it goes!