Marathon training isn’t all about physical fitness. We discover that, with the right mindset, you’ll cruise through your marathon training and triumph on race day.

When I first trained for a marathon, one of the most useful things somebody said to me was that 20 percent of it is about your training and 80 percent of it is about your mindset. It may not be an exact science, but one thing is for sure: a positive outlook can be your secret weapon.

What a lot of people don’t realise when they book their place is that it’s not necessarily the 42.2km at the end that will be the biggest challenge. Completing hundreds of kilometres of training on cold mornings, when you’re aching, or you haven’t had enough sleep, can be tough.

It’s so easy to become negative about the whole experience, particularly if the people around you are determined to put you down. However, with the following tricks, you will be able to remain positive – and it’s that mindset that will see you crossing the finishing line with a big grin on your face.


When training for a spring marathon, your training runs are likely to enter the two-hour zone in winter. It’s so easy to convince yourself that staying in your warm, cosy bed is more important than completing your long run. But if you think like that, you are considering the situation with a negative mindset.

Instead, ask yourself how the decision you are about to make affects the next ten minutes, the next ten hours and the next ten days. The next ten minutes will be the hardest as you peel yourself out of bed. In ten hours’ time though, you could be feeling pretty smug that you got out there, in spite of the weather, and are now thinking about what to tuck into for your well-earned evening meal. As for the next ten days, your training plan is on track, so you’re not trying to cram in missed miles.

Finally, think about what this single training run will signify to you and your sense of achievement over the next ten months.


When you get to 13.1 miles in your training plan, your schedule might feel a little tougher as you’re building up the mileage each week. When you start to think about how on earth you could possibly run twice this distance, it’s easy for doubt to creep into your mind. Refocus your thoughts by remembering back to when you ran your first 5K – did you imagine then how hard it would be to double that distance, and yet here you are quadrupling it?

You need to focus on one mile at a time. A great distraction technique is to ask your friends and family to choose a mile between one and 26 and create a supportive, positive mantra for you, something like, ‘You can do it!’ to think about when you reach that mile. Remember these mantras during every training run, so that on the big day they are second nature to you.


People love reeling off tales about runners they know who hit ‘the wall’. Well, if they did hit the wall, it’s probably because they didn’t train properly, they didn’t fuel with enough carbohydrate, or they convinced themselves that there was a ‘wall’. Don’t even entertain thoughts of this myth. Make sure you have researched your training and eating plan so that you have those boxes ticked. Then every time your mind starts to entertain thoughts of this imaginary wall, switch it to focus on the image of you crossing finishing line. Be realistic: you will probably be exhausted but you will also feel overjoyed at your achievement as the marathon medal is placed around your neck.


Make sure that during your training, you surround yourself with positive, supportive people as they can have a powerful impact on your mindset as well. Tell them how they can support you. If you have a partner, share your training schedule with them so that you can arrange it to suit both of you. This way you will eliminate unnecessary stress from your life.

Words by Georgina Burnett