Q&A highlights: Sports psychologist Victor Thompson

Catch up with the highlights of this week's webchat

Q9. I have been training for London since xmas but had to stop for three weeks due to chest infection which has affected my running times even though I am back on track. I'm not a elite runner just want to get round comfortable in around 5-5.30. I have managed to complete 18.05mls in 4hrs but have found it hard to go out in the really cold weather.  Am I being realistic and would it help if I followed a pacer. – Margaret maiseybrigg

A9. Well done on getting out there on any cold days. When significant illnesses start to develop then it is wise to be cautious and back-off, rather than grinding yourself into the ground. I’ve seen weekend warriors do this to themselves.

Stuff happens in life and in marathon build-up, more stuff than average seems to happen.

Remember your goals for the event and consider if they should be reviewed with the time off you've had.

Following a pacer can be very helpful as it keeps you on pace, without having to stress about pacing, without going off too fast with all the adrenaline flowing (what most others will be doing around you). You will then enter the finishing stages in much better condition, passing others and doing much less of a walk (if any) than others.

Q10. I am doing my first Marathon at end of April...I have run 4 longer runs over 18 miles (18-22) in the last 6 weeks...but at almost 50 my body is struggling. What one thing can I focus on to keep it going for that last long run on race day. I just want to finish so time is not an issue! Music with a fast beat does help. Any other suggestions welcome. – Andre Hutchinson

A10. Focus on soaking up the atmosphere, enjoying it, relishing the challenge, the opportunity to test yourself, to do yourself proud. Soak up the crowd's energy and use it. They are all supporting you (oh yes).

Q11. I struggle with pre race anxiety. It's not particularly race day but the three days before I get myself so worked up I have a hard job keeping food down which means I don't perform my best. My last race I was so empty towards the end my stomach hurt. Can you offer any advice that would help me stay calm leading up to the race? -Gemma Stokoe

A11. This is very common. Pre-race stress and anxiety will build in the lead-up for 2 reasons:

  1. The event is important to you (your performance, hopes and fears)
  2. The outcome or result is uncertain

This provides lots of fodder for worry, stress, anxiety and the need to try to get reassurance or a sense of control. Expect anxiety if you have had this before in similar events. Imagine how you will preform, how you will manage the day, how you will execute your strategy. Recall all your good training. You're ready, aren't you?   Food wise, eat what you'd normally eat, try not to over do it, or eat anything that a nervous stomach will not like. Go easy on fibre - as your stress hormones reduce your ability to digest and increase the need to evacuate (bowel movements). Nerves are normal, they prepare you to fight or take flight. The marathon is a long 'flight'. 

Q12. I've been struggling with my training due to a knee injury in the early days and then illness.. I'm running London on April 21st, my longest distance to date has been 14 miles... I've done a half marathon race too which I completed in 2hours 5mins. My confidence today that I can do this is diminishing, I need to do two more long runs before the big day and want to try a 17mile then a 20mile but I am worried I won't be able to do it. - davels

A12. I 'm sure many other runners face similar - I need to get in my long run before the marathon dilemmas too.

It sounds like you think it will be tough. But, will it definitely be or be beyond you? What if someone set £1 million at mile 20 of your long run, would that change your attitude and prespective???? People can do amazing things when they are driven. Find something that would inspire and spark your drive.

If you are concerned about an injury and still want to do the time, you may be able to substitute the early part of the run for something with less injury risk, such as a 2 hour cycle. Then, quickly change from cycling to running. This way you start off running fatigued and can work your fatigued legs and body, with less re-injury risk.

Q13. Like Gemma & Emmy, I also suffer with nerves alot before a race that I want to do well in (i.e, if it's an event I've neen training hard for and my goal is a PB).  However, the other day I did a 10K and got a PB and wasn't nervous at all on the start line.  I think this was because it wasn't a main goal for me, but I was still expecting I would do well.  However, if it hadn't gone well I know I would have genuinely brushed it off and moved onto the next race. I do have a routine at the start of each race (which I also practice on my LSRs) around food, loo, stretching etc but even this doesn't help on the start line of an important event. I know the obvious answer is to try relax at the start of my important races, but I find that easier said than done.  Therefore if you any tips on this it would be appreciated. – Big G

A13. Tell yourself beforehand that you are going to do your best, stuff may happen, and if it does you will do your best at the time to handle it. However things go, you will be proud of yourself, live to fight another day and seek other goals. This is one, but not the only goal for you in running, activity and life! Go for it. Have fun.

Q14. I seem to have lost my love of running. Basically this time last year I was outside running at least twice a week with one long distance run. No matter what the weather I went outside and loved my running. I entered my first ever race - the Bupa Manchester 10k and I was so nervous that I wouldn't be able to do it, despite the fact I always ran at least 12k on my long runs. Leading up to it I pushed myself to go further, but found it easy, and two weeks before the race day I finally reached half a marathon. Obviously I was happy and proud of my running.

Even though on race day I was still bricking it, believing for some reason I wouldn't be able to run right on that day I did it and got a new 10k personal best.

Then I stopped?! Literally the week after I had no motivation to do anything and that motivation has never come back. Most of my runs have been forced. I get the odd run now and again which I will enjoy but most of them are just painful arguments with myself and I don't know why - usually that I cba to do the distance or my legs feel heavier than normal etc. I still run, but not as often as I was doing. And most of the time it’s on a treadmill, which is worse. I use the coldness as an excuse, or that I've eaten food that will give me a stitch. I'm still regular at the gym, and I will push myself with other exercises, although I haven't found a cardio exercise I like other than running.

Is there anything I can do to get my running mojo back? I miss it. - Hazel

A14. Hazel, why do you run? Why did you take it up? What do you get out of it? Do you have a goal (or goals)? Did you reach your goal and then wake up thinking "that's it"? So, you lost your point of running. Do you need to revisit goals or set some? Are you worn out? Would a break help? Can you go out there and take the pressure off, by daydreaming, listening for sounds as you run, enjoying being away from life's stresses????

Q15. I am a relative newby in the running world, I am nearly 50 and fit & well normally, but before I run I need to go to the toilet and this is now stressing me out, I can spend over an hour back & forward each time I am going (number 2) and passing something each time, I sometimes am loose with this. I don't suffer from IBS and don’t have these problems when I am on a normal day and not running. If I go to the gym I will go to the loo before I start, but within 10 minutes on treadmill I need to go, after 30 minutes running I am in pain and NEED to go, and again passing something each time. Sorry this is a personal & sensitive subject but I am sure I'm not alone (well at least I hope I'm not) I am on the verge of going to my doctor to see if I am normal, but thought there may be some dietary advise or something you can think of that may help. I will consider hypnotherapy acupuncture or anything. I have a few runs (10, 15 and 20K) planned over the next few months but when I go for my Saturday Parkrun (5K) I am suffering beforehand, and have gripey pains for 2 - 3 hours afterwards. – Sue Bovill Tate

A15. Running stimulates the bowels. I know fell runners who never leave the house without loo roll. Hypnotherapy may help but I'd seek a nutritional solution first. Be wary of fibre and caffeine in the lead-up to your runs. Maybe you could see what my other Pro Team Expert, Ruth McKeen says as she's our nutritionist.   

Q16. Do you have any suggestions on dealing with the frustration that follows an injury or when sickness waylays your training plans? This is particularly when even cross training isn't even an option (I speak as someone in the depths of a horrible "spring" cold!) – blonde runner

A16. Stuff happens and it is frustrating. It can be worse when you are in the no-mans-land of not knowing if you are fine yet or not, then you do some exercise and feel whacked. (I've had a fair bit of this myself since last July.) When this happens we need to be brave and make the best decisions for us that helps us to recover, stay relatively fit (maybe through light activities and stretching). Training plans and goals will likely need to be modified and eased.

Try to keep positive, knowing that when you return to fitness you'll really enjoy and savour the training and racing again.

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