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Mental preparation is as important as physical preparation

Mental preparation is as important as physical preparation

Marcel is a Foundation Run member training for his first ultramarathon. He’s sharing his thoughts and tackling it one run at a time.

The Tarawera Ultra Marathon is upon us. Everything Debbie and I have been working towards comes to fruition this weekend. We’re as physically prepared as possible. Crucially, we’re mentally ready too.

Pain and despair will swing hard at various points along the ultra marathon course, but thanks to our training, most of what we experience will be familiar and therefore, hopefully, not too overwhelming.

Week by week, particularly through the speed and endurance sessions, we’ve faced smaller scale versions of breaking point moments that we might expect to be confronted with during the event. We’ve learned to make peace with those moments – ride them through, tough them out, get to the next hurdle.

When you’re gasping through your fifth set of 1.5km sprints knowing you have another set to go, thinking there’s nothing left in the tank, and the end of the session feels a million miles away – but then you not only complete the session but hit your pace target ... that’s an empowering lesson.

Even when I don’t think I can do it, it turns out I can.

I’ve prepared myself for how I might be feeling at each point along the way. For a bit of fortune telling, here’s a preview of the race from inside my head, a snapshot of what I think the day might look like.

  • 0km: I should have gone to the toilet a fifth time.
  • 2km: Puffed already. How am I going to survive this?
  • 3km: What’s that pain in my hip? I’ve never felt that before.
  • 5km: It’s in my foot. Oh no the pain is in my foot!
  • 10km: Actually, I’m feeling pretty good. I got this.
  • 20km: Sweet as. Just have to run this distance four more times.
  • 21km: Hang on. Four?
  • 30km: Maybe I should have taken that first 10km a bit easier.
  • 40km: Okay I’m ready to stop now. I’m not even halfway.
  • 50km: Hurts. Hurting. This would be beautiful scenery if I wasn’t so busy wishing for a comfy couch and a cold beer. Not that I could drink beer right now. Swirling guts. Should I eat something? Why did I think I could run 100km? Is it too early in the race to lose my mind?
  • 60km: Who put this &*$@ hill here?
  • 70km: Biggest hill out of the way. All downhill from here.
  • 72km: Hills. I’m done with hills!
  • 75km: Pain. Agony. Someone give me an axe to chop off my feet.
  • 80km: Everyone at the aid station is cheering me on! I’m a legend! I can do it!
  • 85km: (quiet sobbing)
  • 90km: Only 12km to go. I can run 12km, can’t I?
  • 92km: Just. Keep. Going.
  • 95km: There is no hill I will not walk.
  • 98km: 5km to go. Home straight!
  • 99km: Surely that was 5km already.
  • 100km: What? MORE f**%&@ kilometres?
  • 101km: ohgodohgodohgodohgodmakeitstopalready
  • 101.2km: When did a kilometre get so long?
  • 101.5km: Never again. Never. Again.
  • 102km: Who am I? What is this place?
  • Next day: Should’ve run that middle section faster.

February 7, 2018

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