A great man once said “You run the first 50 with your legs, the second 50 with your head and then the last 50 with your heart.”
What a load of rubbish. Basic physiology requires you to use your heart and your legs the whole way along, but the mental part of being an ultra marathon runner is something that has always intrigued me.
As a 24hr runner, where sprinting as quickly as possible and lying in the foetal position crying both get you to the finish line just as quickly, keeping your head strong is a vital part of running that allows you to fill the unforgiving day with 86,400 seconds of distance running.
Here are my five top tips for dealing with the mental aspects and getting to that hallowed finish line.
1. Expect the lows
The ultimate high of finishing will always be there so know that however rubbish you feel, it’ll pass. Get some food and water, keep moving and every little thing’s going to be alright.
Visualise crossing that finish line. In the weeks before a main goal think about how it will feel to cross that finish line, imagine finishing strong in the last 10 miles and being greeted by your family, in awe of your greatness, as you collapse under the weight of your massive medal.
3. Break it down
If I lined up at the start of a 24hr race and thought about the fact that I had to run in circles for the whole day then I’d probably just lay down and cry. Think about the next hour, to the next checkpoint, to the next tree and deal with that bit before thinking about the next section.
4. Enjoy yourself
Remember that race day is the fun part and it’s why you’ve done all the hard work, the early mornings and the hill sprints. If you’re not having fun then chat to and help someone who looks more miserable and this will always cheer you up.
5. Know you are going to finish
Never start a race unless you 100% believe you are going to complete. No matter what happens, how long it takes you or what challenges present themselves. That self belief will stop you making excuses and you can get on with being an absolute hero.