As a long time coach and marathon runner, I can tell you that there are times when running seems boring. When this boredom happens during a marathon race, this can really be detrimental to performance. With careful planning and some coping techniques in place, boredom can be prevented. Here are some things that I use to help cope with Marathon boredom:
- Break the Marathon Into Smaller Distances
- Focus on Running Form
- Be Distracted by Nature
- Create Some Effective Mantras
- Dedicate Miles
STEP 1: Break the Marathon Into Smaller Distances
It can often be daunting to toe the line of a marathon and tell yourself you now need to run 26.2 miles. I find that it is much simpler to tackle one 5K at a time or even pull yourself through each mile individually. I love to do this because it helps me to stay in the moment and concentrate on the goal pace or heart rate average I am aiming for for that particular mile.
Another thing I like to do to cope with marathon boredom is to have preset intervals in which I “reset” myself. By this I mean that I pretend that I just started the race over and clear my mind; I often shake out my arms and check my form head-to-toe. This is often done every 5K or 5 miles for me.
This focus on running form really helps to take my mind off the pain and allows me to focus on one thing at a time. I like to start with my head and work down by asking myself these questions:
- Is my neck stiff?
- Do I need to relax my shoulders or loosen my tights fists?
- Are my arms floating back and forth with ease?
- Are my elbows tucked in eliminating torso rotation?
- Am I running tall with a good lean from the ankle?
- Am I keeping my muscles engaged when I push off the ground?
- Are my feet landing gently and not clomping on the ground? Etc.
STEP 3: Be Distracted By Nature
As with any marathon you are going to see a lot of terrain and generally it’s not all the same. Allow yourself to get distracted by the trees, birds, pavement, trials and enjoy the scenery. I also like to feel the wind on my skin or heat on my shoulders. Being a nature-lover I often find this refuels me and gets me excited about running. There is nothing boring about nature to me. If you are looking for a race with great views check out the Ogden Marathon in Utah. This race offers amazing scenery.
Another thing that I really like to do to keep myself in the game and preventing my mind from wondering and getting bored in a marathon is to repeat some effective mantras in my mind I like to use words like; “strong”, “focused”, “motivated” or even motivating phrases like; “You’ve got this girl!” “You are capable. This is your day!”
To complete a marathon for many may be a monumental feat and something they will always cherish and remember. As the miles wear on it might be hard to stay focused on why you signed up in the first place. Low blood sugar might not allow your mind to focus so clearly. I have found that dedicating the last 6 or 8 miles, when it gets really tough, to a person that has inspired me can really help. It helps to think about that person for that full mile and run it for them. I often will write names or initials on my forearms to help me remember and focus on them for that mile. You can also wear their name on your shirt or back (as pictured at the Race For Grief event on Memorial Day).
In conclusion, as you plod along the marathon route allow yourself to break it up into segments to help you stay focused on a small portion of the race at a time. Set intervals where you can do a reset. Keep your mind entertained by focusing on your form. Also remember it is okay to be distracted by nature and enjoy your surroundings. Finally utilize mantras and dedicated miles to inspire you to continue when the going gets tough.
Coach Lora Erickson
Coach Lora is a certified running and triathlon coach and top-level All-World triathlete recently competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Africa. She works will all level of athletes. On-line training programs are available. To learn more visit BlondeRunner.com