It may be hard to predict what it will be like to run the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) solo this year, and you certainly don’t want to underestimate the challenges it may present. You may not have the cheering crowds, the feeling of camaraderie with the other runners you see on the course and the excitement of crossing the finish line, but your virtual event can still be great. Here are some tips from the MCM Psyching Team to help you cope with the mental challenges of a solo event:
Fine tune your mantras. One of the many benefits to having supporters along the course is that they yell out energizing and reassuring messages of support. Comments like “you got this,” “take it one step at a time” and “you’re looking great” are often heard on race day. When repeated to oneself (out loud or not), such statements (e.g. mind over miles, one stride at a time, you got this) are a mantra. The use of mantras is an ancient practice that research has discovered has the power to calm the nervous system and reduce negative emotions. Figure out what mantras are effective for you and use them liberally during your event.
Run solo now. Facing some of the challenges of solo running during your practice runs will allow you to gain insights, skills and confidence come event day.
Try a new playlist.If you run with music, try changing your playlist. Save your most energizing songs for the end and introduce some novel tunes early on.
Time flies when you’re having fun.Create a game that you can entertain yourself with during your run. For example, how many different breeds of dogs do you see? How many people in sunglasses? On bicycles? Try the alphabet game – spot the letters A to Z (in order) on anything you see along your path, sing a favorite song in Pig Latin, solve a math equation, or conjugate verbs in a foreign language.
Break It Down.Thinking about 26.2, or even 10 miles can be overwhelming. Break your race down into manageable chunks. Go as small as you need to go (the next 5K, mile, the next 20 steps works as well). Identify and celebrate these successes along the way, which will help you manage anxiety.
Make it Social. Just because you are running alone doesn’t mean you can’t have your support network along your race course virtually cheering you on. Send out a picture or tweet either at designated break points or whenever you need a lift. Virtual cheers will be your reward for sharing your progress. Plan for a group to be at the finish line to celebrate your accomplishment, and this will give you something fun to look forward to.
Be Mindful.Mindfulness involves a focus on the present and your immediate surroundings. Use all of your senses to take things in, both inside and outside of your body. Your breath can be used as an anchor to center your attention, as it is always with you.
Seize the opportunity to grow.Knowing how to care for your body and mind during a marathon requires skills that often develop with experience and support from your team. During your solo event, you will be fully responsible for lifting yourself out of any low moments, managing your own bathroom breaks, hydration and supplies to stay properly fueled. Be prepared with enough gels or salt to avoid problems like bonking, cramping or intestinal discomfort (to name a few). No doubt the challenge of figuring out these physical and mental skills will create confidence and knowledge that you can draw upon for years to come.
Limited spots remain in the virtual MCM as well as all other MCM Weekend events including the 10K, 50K and Mile. Click here to register today! Will you be running? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #RunWithTheMarines.
Written by Jennifer Lager, Psy.D. Jennifer Lager, Psy.D. is a McLean, Virginia based Clinical Psychologist. Her practice, GAME- Get A Mental Edge, specializes in performance enhancement for athletes, performing artists and business professionals. Dr. Lager is the Director of the Marine Corps Marathon’s Psyching Team established in 2019.Psyching Team established in 2019.
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