The key to the marathon is chunking


WITH just a few days before the London Marathon, the mental states of the people who are running it will be varied. Some will be excited, some scared, some are confused and not sure what to expect, and others just feel underprepared. The bad news is that it is going to be hard – and people always underestimate how hard. The good news is that it is hard for everybody; there’s a reason professionals spend so much time with psychologists. It’s hard for them too, and they spend as much time getting their heads ready for competition as their bodies.

Some people will feel daunted, but by this point you have done everything that you can. If you think that you are not prepared, then maybe you want to tone down your approach – if you can’t make the whole race or have to walk, accept it.

Be realistic about what you should expect. After 10 miles, it’s going to hurt. Your body will be sending messages to your brain going: “stop doing this”. That’s the point when people start having irrational thoughts and thinking: “I’m useless, I’ll never finish”, or wishing for an injury or something else to go wrong so that they can stop.

At that point you need to think: “Right, what can I control?” And what you can control is things like your breathing and your stride, so think about slowing down, rehydrate, relax your shoulders and re-energise. Bring things back under control. Another technique is chunking – break the race down into a series of manageable chunks, a series of achievable things. Think: “I am going to keep this pace going for the next 300 strides, or until the next drinks point” Once that’s over, then aim, for the next one, and every time there is one fewer chunks left.

If you are dreading it, then remind yourself of the fun, challenge aspect of doing a marathon. It’s a positive thing, you are doing something really impressive and you should try to keep a focus on the fact that you are going to enjoy it. It is something that’s your choice and rather impressive.

Dr Adams works at Pure Sports Medicine.
Jeremy Hazlehurst