Where's Your Head At?


We talk to Vanda Caulfield from We Run – the UK’s largest network of running coaches, offering 1-2-1 running coaching, expert running analysis, and corporate and charity coaching – about what is going on inside our heads at different stages of a marathon.

From pre race jitters and the runner’s high to that inevitable anti-climax. Her advice for the finish line? Book a massage, catch up with friends, and most definitely sign up to another race…

1 – 10 miles
You’re feeling euphoric, filled with adrenaline, energy, hope, camaraderie and excitement. The crowd spurs you on. Body and mind are in sync with each other.

11 – 15 miles
Excitement starts to kick in “this could be a good one”. Then the mind sends out its first warning. There is still a long way to go! Start using visualisation tools at this point to comfort yourself. “This is how I expected to feel at this point”.

16 – 21 miles
You’re likely to go through a few bad spells as boredom and tiredness kick in. Glycogen store depletes. You’re lacking in water, posture starts to fail and you take in less oxygen. Correct your running form. Try to detach yourself from the surroundings and listen to music. Do a mental check on the body. Try to relax and concentrate. Be in the moment with the breath.

22 – 26 miles
The body is tired. Levels of glucose in the bloodstream start to drop and the stores of carbohydrate energy in the body are almost depleted. Your mind is now in full flow. “Keep going, I am strong” chants in your head. Counting, singing, breathing, listening to one more song to take your mind off which part of the body hurts the most! Mile 26. Nothing else matters. You know you will make it and it’s going to be a good one!

Post marathon:
You have achieved your dream and feel euphoric post marathon. This feeling lasts while you are still in the group of 40, 000 plus runners you shared it with. Alone the next day you feel pretty flat as the enormity of the impact on your body registers.

Feeling low is part of the self-preservation. Our bodies can’t sustain the heightened level of excitement for infinity – we need to recover. For me, I wouldn’t give up the amazing high I get at the end of a great achievement just to avoid suffering what feels like a low when your body comes back to its natural state.

My best advice is to expect this feeling to help you cope better. Book a massage, catch up with friends, and most definitely sign up to another race!

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