Ben Lucas has coached more than 200 people to complete marathons. He shares the top things people struggle with and how they overcome it when it comes to running a mentally tough endurance event.
Ever since I wrapped up my footy career, I have loved running. It gave me an outlet and a challenge when I thought my competitive days were over. It has taken me around the world, as I have had the opportunity to run the NY Marathon, Boston Marathon, London Marathon and more, I have made friends along the way, and more importantly, it has allowed my community to connect and bond over a collective challenge.
I have now trained well over 200 people, many of which who didn’t believe that they could run a marathon, to complete the event. I am currently training up a team from my fitness studio Flow Athletic to do the Sydney Marathon in September. Here are some things that people struggle with and how to overcome them.
Mind over matter
The challenge with a marathon often comes down to the mind. We know a marathon is hard, and we just psych ourselves out of it. Lots of my clients eventually overcome this because we spend 3 months training ahead of an event, we study the course so they know what they are in for, and our long run days generally get longer. For those who don’t here are a few suggestions:
- Alternate between running and walking. When training a new runner, I will often get them to run a few hundred meters and then walk a few hundred metres. That way they know they can slow down if they want to.
- Study the course so you know what to expect. For example, if a track has a hill, then you know that will be the hardest part. In your mind, the rest of it will seem easier
- Consider that you have trained for this and you will be fine
- Focus on your breath. By keeping your breathing fluid, you will feel more calm
- Get excited every time you see another km marker that you have passed
- Do it with a friend
- Have a great playlist
One thing that is very true about marathons, is that it can be very hard on the body. Some people get pain in their Achilles, their legs, back and more. However, if you strengthen the specific muscles needed to get you over the finish line, you will have much more luck.
The first tip is to build your kms up gradually. If you are not a runner, start with 3km, build to 5, 7, 9, 15 and so on. This will help you strengthen your achilles and build up the relevant muscles needed to get you over the finish line.
Secondly, I recommend hitting the gym. Do a lot of single leg work, as when you run you are on one leg at a time, so you want to strengthen your legs equally. Do lots of core and postural work too. This will help you build a strong base and maintain good posture.
Make sure you use a foam roller to roll out, get a massage when needed, stretch, warm up and cool down. Remember that recovery is half the battle.
You need energy to run a marathon, so make sure you are drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated, eat foods with slow-release energy such as a banana, lean protein, Wholefoods, sweet potato, lots of greens. Runners often like glucose for a quick energy hit when they are running, but for the week or so leading up to the big event, you are better off looking at foods that you know your body is comfortable with, and ones that provide energy.
About Ben Lucas
Ben is the owner and co-founder of Flow Athletic, an incredibly successful yoga and fitness studio based in Paddington, Sydney. He is an experienced personal trainer and former professional rugby league player for the Cronulla Sharks. In the space of five years, he ran 35 marathons and five ultra-marathons and continues to train runners for their future events.