Ask the Experts: Marathon Mental Strength Q&A with Dr Victor Thompson

Master the marathon with advice from psychologist Dr Victor Thompson

1 to 20 of 56 messages
13/04/2012 at 10:24
Morning all!

ASICS Target 26.2 psychologist Dr Victor Thompson will be online between 1pm and 2pm today to answer your questions about preparing mentally for your spring marathon. Whether you’re starting to get race nerves, worried about your race strategy or just looking for tips on how to master the distance, Victor’s here to help.

As well as being a specialist in sports psychology, Victor is a keen triathlete who has represented Great Britain and Ireland. In 2005 he raced for Ireland at the Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii and in 2010 and 2011 he finished 11th in his age-group at the European Triathlon Championships.

We're opening the discussion now so Victor will be able to get stuck in straight away at 1pm (rather than having to deal with too many questions all at once). That's enough from me - time to get posting!

Dominique

13/04/2012 at 10:35

I'm making my marathon debut at the VLM and have ignored all the sensible advice about not focussing on a time, and simply enjoying the day!

I suspect it's too late now to undo my neurosis about pacing- what troubles me is that I suspect I'll get wound up about the crowds/ slower runners and waste lots of energy weaving and getting cross in the first few miles.

Any wise words would be gratefully received- many thanks!

13/04/2012 at 10:38

I'm a first time marathoner who has missed almost 5 weeks of training due to injury. Am still going to do the VLM, with a run-walk plan and absolutely no time ambitions, just the desire to finish. Understandably I'm worried about my lack of long runs and have no idea how to prepare for the later stages of the race.

I've been reading about the inportance of positive thinking, and suggestions of creating a mental 'video' of me running well and crossing the finish line. Am other simple ways I can boost my confidence and quell my nerves?

Thanks!

13/04/2012 at 10:48

Hi Victor

If there was only one piece of advice you could give what would it be and why?  I ask this because I know from past marathons that when you're really tired your brain goes to mush and it's really difficult to think straight. 

 Would welcome your advice - many many thanks.

13/04/2012 at 10:48
I'm a first-time marathoner who's running the Edinburgh marathon.  I've done a 20 mile race as part of my training but am struggling to fit in long runs (15+) with work / family commitments.  Is it as effective to do several shorter runs (i.e. 10 miles)?
13/04/2012 at 11:35

Mine is a simple question - what are your tips for maintaining motivation when it starts to flag?

Generally I am ok but I have had 2 bad races when my mind took matters into its own hands and I stopped running. Physically I could have run but mentally, the fact that conditions weren't quite right (temperature/crowds) led to this despair that could not be overcome.

So how can I give myself a good talking to and motivate myself to keep going when it gets tough?

13/04/2012 at 11:42
Hi Victor

This is more a question about 'not racing' than racing. I was supposed to be running Brighton on Sunday but picked up an injury to my foot right at the start of my taper which is going to put me out of action for at least 6 weeks. I'm pretty gutted and feeling a bit down about it all as my training had gone really well. Any words of wisdom?

Thanks Kylie
13/04/2012 at 11:46

Hi Victor,

I'm in a similar situation to Kylie above. Also picked up an injury to my right ankle 6 weeks ago and it's seriously affected my training since then. With London in a weeks time things do not look great. Am seeing a specialist this afternoon to try and get a definitive diagnosis, but fear the "do not run for xx weeks" line. Will be devasated if this is the case. How to deal with this? Have tried to learn to love swimming and cycling, but it's just not cricket, I mean, running!

Thanks, Chris.

13/04/2012 at 12:00
Hello Victor - and thanks for taking the time to help

Mine is a first timer's question really - having only trained to 20 miles the extra 6 loom quite large (and seem to be getting larger). Not helped by the fact that people say half the race is to 20 then it really begins. I know I need to treat the marathon with respect but that 'extra 6' is beginning to look harder and longer every time I think about it.

I'm slightly worried that over thinking the whole thing is making me become ever more conservative in my aims. Half marathon and 20 mile races indicate I should be able to get a 4.40ish time - but in my head I'm now worrying and thinking I should aim for a 5 hour time so I don't blow everything. Any advice you can give to help me get those little voices in my head to be on my side for a change would be appreciated!

Thanks
13/04/2012 at 12:06

Hi Victor,

Can you recommend any mental strategies to help deal with the taper/on the day?

13/04/2012 at 12:12
How to keep your motivation up in the long training runs? I'm at the toughest point now in preparation for Edinburgh marathon and some days it's tough with full time job, college and family life. It's the case of i want to but my brain telling me i'm tired...How to get going and keep going?
13/04/2012 at 12:28

Hi Victor

I would like your views on how best to get over a bad marathon.  I ran VLM last year, had an awful race, finishing almost an hour below my target time, despite training well.  It took me months before I could apply myself to run much more than a mile at a time.  I wasn't really injured afterwards, I just felt like there was a mental barrier to overcome because of the negative experience I had of the race.  How can I prevent significant post-marathon fall outs from happening again?

Ivy Mike - I'm in the same position as you, I sprained my ankle 6 weeks ago.   It was devastating but I chose to pull out this year and defer my place.  It's not ideal, but I tried to turn it into a positive and thought about all the training I can do over the rest of the year to improve my fitness come the race next year. 

13/04/2012 at 12:30

Similar to the above, I'd be interested in your thoughts specifically on calming nerves and getting more sleep.  I don't get this much now but I certainly used to and I imagine it's a common problem.  At what point should one take medication?

13/04/2012 at 12:41

From Hilden Bro

I'm making my marathon debut at the VLM and have ignored all the sensible advice about not focussing on a time, and simply enjoying the day!

I suspect it's too late now to undo my neurosis about pacing- what troubles me is that I suspect I'll get wound up about the crowds/ slower runners and waste lots of energy weaving and getting cross in the first few miles.

Any wise words would be gratefully received- many thanks!

My reply:

Thanks for this question. As it was posted first, I’ll answer this first, then will reply to more beteen 1-2PM.

This is a common challenge – not getting caught up in the stress and excitement and melee at the start of the marathon.  Here’s your 3 point plan:

1.       Accept that it will be busy and people will be in your way. That is part of the big marathon experience.

2.       Decide to ride this section out, it will pass, don’t fight it (or other runners!), try to be calm and chilled (as possible)

3.       Recognise that there is a temptation with all the adrenaline pumping to go off too hard, but if you do, there is a very high chance of crashing and burning – so hold back at first

4.       Work out what will help you enjoy the day (do this this week, well before race day), as this is your stated goal

 Victor
13/04/2012 at 12:54

Hi Victor,

do you have any particularly visualisation techniques you can suggest?

Thanks,

Ed.

13/04/2012 at 13:01

Hi there!

I have completed my second marathon in September of last year. I was really looking forward to it. Achieved my PBS but not quite the set target. I loved it anyway as it was in my home town Berlin. Unfortunately ever since then I have hit a massive wall. Picking up every virus going and due to health my fitness level is at its worst. How can I pick myself up and regain confidence. I am not entirely sure where or when but I have completely lost my mojo. Many thanks. 

13/04/2012 at 13:06

From Black and Tabby:

I'm a first time marathoner who has missed almost 5 weeks of training due to injury. Am still going to do the VLM, with a run-walk plan and absolutely no time ambitions, just the desire to finish. Understandably I'm worried about my lack of long runs and have no idea how to prepare for the later stages of the race.

I've been reading about the inportance of positive thinking, and suggestions of creating a mental 'video' of me running well and crossing the finish line. Am other simple ways I can boost my confidence and quell my nerves?

Thanks!

My reply:

Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, many runners end up having a compromised build-up to the race with injury or life getting in the way. It is important that you first have a sensible plan of how you will ‘play’ the event: your pacing, your nutrition, your focus. If you feel shocking towards the end of the event and end-up walking, then there is little point in having a rehearsed image of you running fleet-footed, fast, gazelle or cheetah like. As, this will be too far away from your actual experience of shuffling towards the finish.

 Victor
13/04/2012 at 13:09

My reply part 2 to Black and Tabby

 Instead, think about what will help you get through the tougher times, what will help you push, persevere, endure? Who inspires you? Why are you doing the event? When have you shown courage to yourself or others?

Or, if it is a good choice to walk, how will you accept this, and then will you walk normally or at a fast pace?

Imagine these scenarios, how you will feel, how you will react, what you will do, how things will work out fine for you.

Oh, and nerves are normal, because it is an important day to you, you will face challenges and there is uncertainty. Expect nerves. They will build in the lead-up, then dissolve once the run starts.

 Victor
13/04/2012 at 13:11

From Runbird:

Hi Victor

If there was only one piece of advice you could give what would it be and why?  I ask this because I know from past marathons that when you're really tired your brain goes to mush and it's really difficult to think straight. 

 Would welcome your advice - many many thanks.

My reply:

Wow, what a question! Okay, my ONE PIECE OF ADVICE IS: cultivate in training and use on marathon day a calm, helpful, directive, positive inner voice or self-talk. I liken this to the perfect coach. He or she who knows exactly what to say to you at any time to keep you going, running well, enjoying the challenge, soaking up the experience, making the most from the event.

There you have it, now get out there an practice it in each training session so it is ready, like the rest of you, for race day.

13/04/2012 at 13:12

Hi Victor,

Just interested to know, when we cross the finishing line and collected our bits and pieces, how should we start our recovery process e.g. what to eat and drink and how often and what to avoid? and what stretching exercises should we do after and later on?  I'm just thinking of my journey home on the train on monday!

Many thanks in advance

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