Mara Yamauchi blog: Virgin Money London Marathon race week is here!


During my ten years as an elite marathon runner, the question I’ve been asked the most is this: what do you think about while running a marathon? A fairly innocuous and straightforward question, on the face of it. But the facial expressions that accompany this question from the person asking usually have a bit more to say, along the lines of: how do you put up with so much pain? Isn’t it boring? How do I make it easier? Why would anyone want to run that far? Not many people admit to thinking these things, but they really go to the heart of the marathon and why it’s such a terrific event and exciting challenge.

We know from the dreaded experience known as “hitting the wall” that the marathon distance is beyond what the human body can easily run, and that is why it’s so appealing and intriguing. 30,000-plus runners will now be putting the final touches to their preparations for Sunday’s race, and may be feeling a bit of trepidation and uncertainty, along with all the anticipation and excitement of the journey ahead.

Mara Yamauchi blog 2For me, the marathon is as much a mental as a physical challenge, and there are plenty of things you can do (must do!) to be ready mentally for the 26.2 mile challenge.

First, is enjoy yourself! Amidst all the focus and talk about carbo-loading, gels, world records, shoes etc. etc., at the end of the day the most important thing is having fun. Running is a very natural, innate and spontaneous activity for us humans, and if you relax and embrace it, running can be fantastically enjoyable. So while you’re preparing for the marathon, don’t lose sight of enjoying yourself, because that will put you into a positive frame of mind and boost your energy for what’s ahead.

Second, remember all the great things you’ve done to prepare. Forget about any training you’ve missed, or injuries and illnesses that may have set you back. Focus on all the hard work you did complete, and the progress you’ve made since you started your preparations.

London Marathon masses

Embrace being part of history. This year we’ll be waving farewell to the mighty Paula Radcliffe in her final marathon before she retires. Her world record, 2:15:25, remains untouchable over ten years on. Think of all the thousands of people who have completed the 26.2 mile journey in years, decades, even centuries gone by, and all the hard work and sweat they expended, as you will be doing on Sunday.

And finally, make sure you have a plan and visualise yourself executing that plan brilliantly on race day. It doesn’t matter what your goal is – a personal best, finishing in a certain time, or just completing the marathon. If you can see yourself running positively, with intent, enjoying the journey, and reaching your goal, then you’ll have the right mind-set to give it your all and run well.

Finally, finally, GOOD LUCK to everyone running on Sunday. You know you can do it. I’ll be commentating for the BBC’s red button broadcast again, so if you’re not running, please tune in. The excitement is really building…I can’t wait!

For my advice on last minute practical tips, take a look at my Run England blog from the 2014 London Marathon, here.

Mara Yamauchi is a retired British marathon runner with a personal best of 2:23:12 set in the 2009 London Marathon, a time which ranks her as the 2nd fastest British female marathon runner ever. Mara is also a qualified Run England Group Leader and Athletics Coach. 

Bridge photo by marimo images

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