They say preparation is half the battle and I had all bases covered to run my first marathon – speed, endurance, stamina, nutrition, recovery – or so I thought. I had even checked out the official energy gels that would be available on the day and practised using them ahead of time to make sure there were no nasty surprises! As it turned out, nothing could have prepared me for the drama of competing in the Greater Manchester Marathon.
No surprise that it was wet – it is Manchester after all – but driving rain whilst blowing a gale from start to finish and with a wind chill factor of -3° was not a scenario I could have reasonably predicted, especially given the mild winter we have had and the unusually warm spring, evidenced by the array of colourful flowers adorning my gardens over recent weeks.
In those extreme conditions, running 26.2 miles felt like the most ridiculous decision I had ever made in my entire life! By the time I passed the 20 mile marker, I’d had enough quite frankly, and that’s when having the right mindset became critically important. It wasn’t just the physical preparation, but the mental preparation I did that got me over the finish line.
When undertaking any challenge, it’s important to learn which factors we can control and which ones we can’t – the ‘uncontrollables’ as I call them that can negatively impact our performance if we let them. Here are some of the ‘uncontrollables’ I encountered on marathon day:
Notice how these ‘uncontrollables’ were all environmental or related to the actions of others. We cannot legislate for the weather or what other people do, however we can control how we respond to the environment we find ourselves in. Remember winning is not under your control. The only thing you can control is how well you compete. How well or how badly any other competitor does is under their control, not yours. We can’t change the ‘uncontrollables’. They will get in the way and if we let them those thoughts and worries can keep us from doing our best.
The key to getting rid of these is to programme in success and programme out mistakes. The way to do that is to focus on the small successes along the way and with every mile marker I passed I said to myself “Another mile down, that’s a win!” That way, I was able to maintain a positive mindset, and let go of the comparisons with other competitors and the feeling that I wasn’t doing well enough. No one can be perfect all the time and striving to do things perfectly (and I should know) causes frustration and anxiety. But working towards doing your very best is a great goal to have. And having fun doing it is also very important. We can all feel like winners when we are doing our best under our control. And that is worthy of celebration!