Who knows if I have put enough endurance in my legs? Although I fell short on my long runs I have been fairly consistent in my pattern of exercise, despite some injury gaps. I might be able to hang on – well that is what I am hoping; that is what I keep telling myself. However there is no margin for error. The cut-off time is 5 hours, so if I blow up and have to walk for long periods it could be touch and go as to whether I am allowed to finish.
Now I know that a pop psychologist will say that you should dismiss all such negative thoughts and just concentrate on succeeding, just picture yourself crossing that finishing line, just imagine running comfortably. That all makes sense and positive visualisation is quite enjoyable, in a daydreamy sort of way. I like doing that. However I can’t get too carried away because my default mental setting is pessimism about my own abilities, which has a tendency to corrode any rah-rah thinking. Instead I have to acknowledge my fears and work them through. I can’t wish them away.
The fears are largely based on the Amsterdam marathon last year, where I walked over a third of the course and finished a few seconds inside 5 hours. I have to convince myself that there were particular reasons for that and I am fitter and stronger this time. Although my head knows those reasons (I had picked up a virus and was not very well) my body still holds the memory of utter exhaustion. Because it was in my last marathon that memory looms large and a nasty voice in my head taunts me by saying ‘you’re only making excuses; maybe you can never last more than 15 miles’.
I have to be able to silence that voice and for this I have a number of strategies:
1) Letting go of the idea of failure. If it falls apart again, it is not a disaster. It is just another chapter in my running story – something I have to learn from. All that matters is that I do as well as I can on the day and then look upon it dispassionately, with the eyes of an outsider.
2) Turn Amsterdam around and look at it positively, as I was actually quite proud of myself. I kept going and finished. I think that was some sort of achievement.
3) Look at the positives of this years training – some sessions have been quite good. Overall I have enjoyed my running.
4) Feel the body getting stronger during this taper period and trust that feeling. I can believe that I will feel quite well rested at the start (even if I don’t know what time zone I am in).
5) Use the anxiety positively, to keep me cautious in the early stages . Just hold back and then hold back some more.