A “Mental” Race at the Boston Marathon

IMG_9396The Boston Marathon has come and gone and I was fortunate enough to run it this year for my 5th time. It is truly a magical race. Well, I can say that now. Last week I was slogging through a very difficult 26.2 miles. I was wondering if I could even make it the whole distance! But more of that in a bit, for now let me say that although my race last week was definitely a physical struggle, it was almost more mental race for me.

As per usual for the Boston Marathon, the predictions for race day weather were all over the place. As I left for Boston 3 days before the race the meteorologists were calling for 44 degrees at the start warming up to 62 degrees. In the few days leading up to the race, the temperature changed to low to mid 70’s during the race. HUGE difference when it comes to running a race between 62 degrees and 75 degrees. Luckily I have run Boston when it’s been hot, cold, and rainy so I wasn’t too upset about the temperature change. I knew I had no control over the weather, only my response to the weather. Plus, I knew my training had been less than optimal for a variety of reason and this race wasn’t meant to be a PR race for me. I felt that I could easily handle the race ahead of me….ok not really, truth be told my mental battle started even before the race began. I hadn’t been feeling well in training–maybe allergies, no Mom, I haven’t made an appointment with the allergist yet– maybe a low iron count and not enough time to get my levels where they should be for a runner — and finally the last straw was a 4 day migraine with the marathon falling of day 3 of four. Yes, I had a migraine marathon morning. Meh, not ideal –but everyone has their own ‘cross to bear’ on race day.

Okay, that was a loooonnnggg way to say that this day started out mental for me. I had huge mental hurdles to get over to even believe I could run the race. Lucky for me I have had a number of mentally challenging races in the past due to injury (broken collar bone…ouch), length (double ironman), and speed (trying to PR at various distances). I have an arsenal of tricks to keep me moving during the tough races ….IMG_9400

  1. Mantras— I have a lot of mantras. My favorite during a difficult time is “suck it up buttercup”. I also say “your body is stronger than your mind” and “you’re in your happy place”. Each one serves a different function at different times. One makes me laugh, one helps me push myself harder even though I want to slow down, and one helps me to quit bitching!
  2. Strike a bargin — I told myself I would walk and get water or gatorade at every water station. Knowing I allowed myself to walk about every mile or so kept me from walking in between the water stops. That was HUGE because the little devil on my shoulder was trying to get me to pull out my phone to text my family and friends about how difficult the race was;).
  3. Change the focus — Just before halfway I stopped worrying about my time. I decided to try and enjoy the race–I gave people high fives, I kissed a gal from Wellesley, I ate a popsicle, I went through some sprinklers, and I tried to smile! (One of my athlete idols is Chrissie Wellington. She is an incredible triathlete (now retired) who always had a smile on her face while racing. I totally admired her for smiling despite the pain of racing.)
  4. Put it in perspective– I had to keep telling myself I was doing the race for FUN. Yes, fun. I wasn’t getting paid. No one was forcing me to race, in fact quite the opposite. I paid a lot of money to be here!
  5. Enjoy the journey – This is one of the toughest ones… I had to tell myself to soak in the experience of the Boston Marathon. I had qualified to be there and it’s really like no other race I’ve experienced. It’s the first race where I actually felt like an ATHLETE. The crowds along the route are truly amazing–cheering, giving high fives, partying–The towns are beautiful along the course too. It’s an experience of a lifetime and I had to tell myself to enjoy it, not simply look forward to the end…and a huge hamburger….and a beer….:)IMG_9404IMG_9407

I have a million and one reasons why the Boston Marathon was a tough race for me, but looking back I’m happy that I didn’t give in the devil on my shoulder. I won the mental race even though the physical race was tough.

Hammer On friends!– Siobhan

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3 thoughts on “A “Mental” Race at the Boston Marathon

  1. Fantastic job and thanks for sharing some of the ways “you do what you do”!!!!
    Congrats on the mental victory! ?

  2. First off, WAY TO GO! You are amazing! :)
    I love mantras, definitely have a few during my races, especially marathons. They are very much needed for those long miles! I’m also a big prayer out there when I’m running.
    I admire you for not only pushing through a mentally tough race, but with a migraine! I had a sinus headache that I had for a couple of days leading into the 2015 NYC Marathon, and on race morning, it still wasn’t completely gone. But, I told myself like you did that it was just something to push through.

    Thank you for sharing your Boston experience!

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