Marathon Training : A strange case of lack of pre-race nerves

I’ve got a marathon in 11 days. I’m not feeling anxious, there’s no nerves. The days are counting down but there isn’t a noticeable building of anxiety, fretting or fear of what’s coming.

Maybe it will come next week? At the moment I feel a (strange to me) calm.

Maybe it’s just the eye of the storm? Maybe next week will be a hurricane of mixed emotions – nerves, elation, fear of failure, giddy anticipation of the starting line.

I’m hoping not. I mean, I don’t want to go into the marathon like an ice man, that would indicate hubris and unbridled arrogance (and that I’m a bit of a d*#% – no-one gets to be arrogant going into a marathon). But, at the same time being a bundle of nerves, self-doubting and anxious isn’t the way to run well either. Somewhere in the middle would be perfect.


The TUI Palma de Mallorca Marathon

People have been asking me recently when the marathon is and when I tell them, the non-runners ask “Shouldn’t you be running now?” or “S#^%, are you nervous?”. I reply with “no” to both.

Runners however, bless them, just ask if I’m ready, and I tell them “Yes”. Confidently.

Where has this confidence come from? Sure I’ve done two marathons before, but I was also injured (plantar fasciitis) and off running for months earlier this year. The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about why I feel so calm.

Looking back I guess it’s since completing the 20miler that I’ve relaxed. Call it ‘proof of concept’ or ‘the release valve’, but completing the 20miler (which was not without pre-run nerves) and then being able to complete all my scheduled training the following week has given me the self-belief that I can run the extra 6.2 miles on race day. Plus I know I can leave everything on the track because I don’t need to run the week after. I can be sore to the point of not walking, hell I could even be injured, but that will be after the finish line.

After completing the 20miler the pressure is off

After completing the 20miler the pressure is off

Coupled with this ‘release valve’, I have been using some tips I learnt from Grateful Running to keep in control and combat running gremlins throughout this marathon buildup. It’s a good read for improving the mental side of your running, and here are some of the things I’ve been using:

Ritual and Routine

Being in control of my running ensures I feel in control of my runs. I have worked out a ‘ritual’ for before and after my long runs, as well as for my midweek early morning runs. For routine I have a training schedule to follow, I look at it many times a week, and I mentally cross of each run as I complete them. I don’t do running boards pinned on the wall. I personally want to be able to control when I’m thinking about running, not have it staring at me all the time even if I don’t want to look at it. This routine and ritual helps me mentally prepare for what I’m about to do, and also gives me a sense of control and purpose, even when walking around the house bleary-eyed at 5am.

Control the ‘controllables’

These items I can influence and are directly managed or changed by my actions. Fretting and worrying about items outside of my control will not change the outcome, it will merely distract from, exasperate and create negativity about my running.

A ‘process vs. outcome’ perspective

Training for a marathon can be seen as a process, and like any other process it has many steps. The outcome is running the marathon. By focussing on the process the outcome (the almost unimaginable task of trying to run 26.2 miles four-and-a-half-months in the future) is broken down (in my case) into 3 defined phases (base, buildup, taper), then further separated into 18 chunks of one-week duration, within each of which are 4 or 5 tasks. This approach makes each task manageable, and by managing the tasks you manage the week, then the month and so on. It also allows for a buildup of small successes (some 90 in total if you have 5 training days per week) with each success being bigger than the other. This approach has helped me to get past the inevitable bad runs. They happen. In a schedule of 90 tasks, having a few or even ten go awry or not quite reach ‘expectations’ still leaves you with a healthy percentage of successes.

The power of positive suggestion

By remaining positive and optimistic throughout my training I have reduced my mental limitations and allowed a feeling of confidence and optimism to grow. Even the worst run has up-sides. If anything, the worst runs are also the best runs. They teach you about how to cope with stress, fatigue, even failure. All of this is solid mental preparation for the tough miles in a marathon. An easy run cannot do this because it hasn’t pushed you outside of your comfort zone. And there is no comfort zone in a marathon.

Lastly, and this is one I’ve learned on my own:

Trust in the training!

I’m following a schedule closely based on one designed by Hal Higdon. If one of his schedules can’t get me over the line nothing will. I’ve done the training, so it’s reasonable to expect success will come from that.

There is, however, one big difference between this marathon and the previous two is – you. In my foray into the adventure of blogging, I’ve ‘met’ a superb bunch of people who have provided their thoughts, advice, support, humour and inspiration, free of charge and without knowing me from a bar of soap. Why? Because that’s the awesome community that runners belong to. So, thanks for everything along the way, thanks for reading, and thanks for writing your own blogs. You’ve made it a lot easier to keep running, and perversely, knowing you will read my posts ‘keeps me honest’ about my running. No skipped workouts. No excuses about the rain. No sleeping in. If you’re lacing up, then I am too!

We’ll see what next week brings, but in the meantime…

Happy running everyone!


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About getgoing-getrunning

Hi, I’m Bernie and I’m a just guy who writes about the things which get me going and get me running, even though my running is never going to result in me standing on a podium!

Posted on October 9, 2013, in Blog, Marathon Training, Positive Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Great post Bernie. It is funny that you mention not being nervous. That seems to be a theme across several blogs this Fall. I don’t know why. Anyway, you made great points I wish I had a month ago. 🙂

    • Haha! Yes, I’ve noticed that, and I’m wondering if maybe there is a ‘delusion virus’ going around and we’ll all be hypertensive nervous wrecks when we’re lining up at the start line!
      Hopefully not!
      Anyway, those tips – you’ve got them now, just in time for your next marathon phase! Happy running and hope you sort your SI out soon!

  2. I have a new mantra from one of your recent posts “trust your training”, this post cements it even more. Thanks for another really helpful post. And I think it’s great that you are feeling calm, why waste energy on nerves if you don’t have to… all the best for the rest of your taper 🙂

    • Thanks so much Annie! 3 out of 4 ‘metronome’ runs done, bang on pace, so the taper is going well so far *knocks on skull while saying ‘touch wood’ out loud*
      I can tell my energy levels are going up. Today I kept noticing my leg kicking under the table at work. Next week is going to be hell for my girlfriend and work colleagues as my energy levels spike!

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