Runner focusing before before the race starts

Ready The Mind

The physical element of marathon preparation is vital (prepare your body for the big day) but you also have to be mentally prepared at the start line

Runners are often at the mercy of their moods. Some days you can wake up and feel invincible and will allow your mind to trail off into thoughts of PBs and ultras, others you begin to seriously doubt whether you can get past the first few miles.

While fatigue, diet, and weather certainly play a part in shaping our mood, the mental approach you bring to the any run often has a big say in how you will perform. Here, we look at a number of ways in which you can mentally prepare for RunLiverpool marathon and how to give yourself that added boost even before toeing the start line.

Leave nothing to chance

Part of the enjoyment of the day will be the surprises you encounter throughout the marathon, be it a quicker than anticipated mile, or the welcome sound of an unknown spectator bellowing out your name. Your preparations, however, from planning your breakfast to confirming transport to the race, should all be put in place in advance. Have all your race essentials, number, kit, jelly babies, ready and waiting the night before. This will allow for a stress free start to the day and more time to concentrate on your performance.

Clear your mind

On race-day, you should have nothing to think about but yourself. This is not to say you shouldn't support and encourage your friends or club mates, but your primary concern should only be you. Try to tie-up any loose ends at work so that your mind isn't bothered by nagging thoughts. To focus on your performance, visualise yourself running and think of the support you have received in the lead up to the race.

Look to psychology

The four C's of concentration, confidence, control and commitment are a great place to start when introducing people to sport psychology as these concepts reasonate with any level and type of run. In basic terms it is fairly obvious what these four words mean in relation to helping you achieve your potential, but applied more closely to your own situation you will really start to understand what a great effect they can have on your performance.


Runners passing the halfway point

It is important to develop the ability to remain focused throughout your run - not forgetting what you want to accomplish from it - be it going the whole distance without walking or achieving a particular time. In order not to lose focus you must have a few tools in your mental tool belt: think about your breathing, your technique, or centre on a fixed point in the course or a runner in front of you. When you notice you are losing focus, return to one of these points and concentrate your mind on it. Staying in the present and not letting your mind drift to irrelevant things can help you achieve your best.

Even with the rapturous support you will receive from vocal Liverpudlians throughout the race, there will be a point at which you will start to feel isolated. Consider the easiest ways you can break it down with the distance in which you have excelled at the most, i.e. if you are an old hand at the 5k, try and think of the marathon as 8 (and a bit) sections, giving the race a sense of familiarity. If you plan how to compartmentalise the race, the task will not seem so mammoth.

Working out a concentration plan for each section of a race is a good way of training your concentration. It might be that you know there's a tough hill on the course and using some visualisation as part of your concentration plan can help. If you find yourself at the bottom of a hill with little energy to tackle it, then try imagining a magnet is pulling you to the top and making your job that bit easier. Using visualisation like this is not only helpful in terms of spurring you on, but it is also a great way of blocking out any distractions around you.


Control the things you can control such as your emotions, preparation, and thinking. You can't control the weather, or other competitors, so don't waste vital mental space on them. Controlling your emotions by recognising what they are telling you can be a starting point. Anxiety before a race is a common experience for runners, but it is not necessarily a negative experience. The butterflies and sweaty palms before a race can be perceived as readiness. That surge of adrenalin as the body prepares to undertake the task at hand can also leave some runners interpreting this as negative. However keeping focused on your race plan, having a mental list of why you're ready for this race and doing some physical relaxation beforehand can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Try deep breathing, inhaling down to your belly button, then exhaling and imagining all your worries being blown out in that breath.


Believe in your own abilities - compare yourself with yesterday, not with anyone else, they've had an entirely different journey to you. If you feel that you have not trained enough for the race, reassure yourself that you can still give your best effort on the day. Adopt a philosophy of 'no regrets' and say it to yourself during tough moments in a race.


It is often said that medals and PB's are not won on the day, but in the many days of preparation before a big race. By using the four C's as part of your every day running regime you will realise that this sentiment is spot on.

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