A letter to myself – days from the marathon
You’re reading this after an exhausting 14 weeks of training. You have a marathon to run on Sunday and as always, you’re full of self-doubt, worrying about things you can’t control – like the weather, and you think you’re slower and less fit now than you were a month ago; maybe you peaked too soon!
The training has been hard and the things that stick in your brain aren’t the long runs and they aren’t the speed sessions or the gentle recovery runs. They aren’t even the practice races you did along the way. The truth is, the bits of training that stick most in your brain are the runs that you didn’t bother with – the ones where you looked out of the window and thought ‘it won’t matter if I don’t go out this once’. Now you wish you did go out, because they all add up – you’ve missed quite a few runs and they were really important. You’ve probably let yourself down and might not reach your goal.
What you need to do right now is take stock. You need to consider the fact that you are about to do something absolutely incredible. You have a marathon to run on Sunday! Self-doubt can spur you on. Look how far you’ve come. Remember your run from day 1? Where you thought you were an idiot for signing up because you could barely move after a gentle jog? The, there’s the time you gave up and walked home after less than half an hour and told yourself the marathon probably wasn’t for you. That was only three months ago. Since then you’ve covered hundreds of miles in training. Never mind the few runs you didn’t bother with! You’ve run over fifty times since you started training. You’ve gotten faster, leaner, fitter, quicker. You’re pushing yourself to a point you never even considered possible and on Sunday all that hard work is going to pay off because you’re doing what less than 1% of the British public have ever done.
Remember watching the London Marathon on the television when you were younger? Wishing you were with those people in those huge crowds running along the embankment? Well that is you. That WILL be you. You’ve shed tears, sweated buckets and become so much more resilient in the last few months. All that training is for Sunday – that is your procession. Your celebratory final run is the easiest of them all so why are you scared? What worries you? If you can head out on a freezing cold February morning, on your own, in the dark, and run for a couple of hours then what fear does a running party hold for you? Because this marathon will be watched by thousands of people and they will all be cheering your name. You’ve earned it because you’re one of the one per cent!
Just calm down. You’ve spent a long time preparing for this. Now it’s time for you to get your head around it. You will be walking an emotional tightrope at the beginning of the race. You have been for a few days now. You’ve been irrational and have bitten the heads of some of the people you love. You’re on edge and full of pent up energy, emotion and aggression. Walk the line carefully! You have a plan. Stick to it. Don’t go off too fast. Those people in front don’t matter. You’ll catch them! You know where your supporters will be. Imagine the course – those first few miles are about pulling yourself back, saving yourself for the later miles. Half way is easy. The crowds will make your hairs stand on end. Your name is on your vest – they’re cheering for you! Drink little but drink often. How will you feel at 16 miles? Ten miles to go. Are you ready to start counting down? 9. 8. 7. 6. Six miles means 10k to go. That’s the real challenge. You’ve just run 20 miles and now it’s the second half of the race. You’ll double yourself here. You will think you need to slow down or stop. You might consider stretching or asking for help from the ambulance people. Don’t give in. You’re running for a reason. Use your memories – people are proud of you. There are children looking at you thinking ‘I wish I was that person running. I want to be just like them’. People you’ve lost. People you have helped and people who have helped you – this is for them. Show them how hard you can work. 5 miles. 4. 3. Three miles means 5k to go. That easy. The crowds will get deeper and deeper as you get closer to the finish. Smile – you NEED to smile. Tell yourself to look up and allow your adrenaline to kick in as you reach mile 25. TWENTY FIVE FUCKING MILES! You are brilliant. You have a mile to go and now you need to dig deep. Talk to yourself out loud if needs be. Look around you at the other runners. They have reasons and motives and they’re still moving. So you need to as well. Mile 26 will pass and that final 0.2 will feel so much longer. Speed up, but not too much because you don’t want cramp. Look at the supporters, the other runners and look within yourself. Cross the line looking at the sky – thinking of the people you are running for and thank them for getting you through this race.
All those miles – three months of mental and physical challenges have been completely worth it. Sure, your legs will stop working as soon as you cross the lines and I know for a fact the tears will flow, but you will remember every section of that race with fondness because you earned every single bit.
Be proud of yourself. Your time doesn’t matter. You might want to achieve a certain time but if you finish knowing you couldn’t have given any more, then you have done all you can. If you’ve pulled yourself inside out and left every ounce of your energy out on that course then you’ve won – you’ve gone far beyond what you ever imagined you could have done. Sunday is your day. You will share your day with thousands of other people so hug them, talk to them and share a moment with them that will last a lifetime.
Here’s the thing, though. You wrote this letter to yourself the day after you started training. Because you feel like this every year. You are the same person year in, year out. And you know what is coming but you may as well be brand new to it. The worry, the self-doubt and the anxiety are things you’ve learned to deal with. That excitement, that nervousness and worry is what makes you want to do it again and again. Be proud of yourself on Sunday and afford yourself a smile or two.
I look forward to you reading this letter next year. And the year after that. And the one after that…
I’m not raising money for charity this year, but if you feel inspired, please consider donating to Mind – the mental health charity. My dad took his own life in 2003 and since then I have learned in so many ways that the memories you have of other people can lift you from the depths of despair when running. I adore my dad and I look to him at my hardest times – often when I think I can run no faster or no longer. My runs are always with him in mind.
- The Spartan Race - April 21, 2015
- A bitter pill to swallow. Sub 3 escapes me again - April 13, 2015
- A letter to myself – days from the marathon - April 9, 2015
- Rationalise your demons, embrace your self-doubt - February 20, 2015
- Brighton Half Marathon 2014 - August 11, 2014
- The Leaden Boot Challenge - August 8, 2014
- Using the treadmill to your advantage - August 1, 2014
- Sports drinks – ineffective, expensive placebo or game changer? - August 1, 2014
- An honest guide to marathon preparation - August 1, 2014
- An honest guide to dealing with pre-race nerves - July 31, 2014