Neil Featherby: Every runner has to master the mind as well as their training in the run-up to a marathon

No runner wants to stop running but sometimes you have to give your body a rest, says Neil Featherby

No runner wants to stop running but sometimes you have to give your body a rest, says Neil Featherby. Picture: Archant - Credit: Copyright Archant Norfolk.

Having had a few emails and conversations with Mark Armstrong with regards to his concerns and worries as he now nears the challenge of the Edinburgh Marathon it is quite clear that he really is so very keen to do well.

However, at the same time he is now suffering with all those little doubts which can creep into any sports person's mind as the moment of truth nears. Our senses and thoughts become so much more heightened whereby the slightest little niggle can feel like a serious injury or a tickle in the throat is the start of a cold.

This is all perfectly normal, but it is about how we deal with it (anxiety management) for which another form of training should also be regarded as just as essential as that of the physical aspects of preparation.

Many a competition has been won or lost due to the power of the mind.

While the elite are lucky enough to have a sports psychologist, there are set mind routines which all keen sports people whatever the ability should regularly practice.

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Sports psychology is so much more than just the few words in this column. Amongst many other things, it is very much about understanding what drives us on in the first place and how to use this drive to keep the momentum going.

It is important to set goals that are achievable be it short term, medium term and of course longer term so as to retain the desire and of course confidence and belief in our ability to succeed.

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However, and while I talk about confidence, even the most confident people can occasionally have their own little crisis and have to confront any barriers which could affect performance unless managed.

I think it is fair to say during my many years in sport, I have met some amazing athletes.

Nevertheless, I have also at the same time met others who were every bit as talented and, although they knew how to talk the talk, underneath it all they genuinely lacked confidence, preferring to deny any issues they may have had. Needless to say when the going got tough their performance was most undoubtedly affected.

As with Mark, it is all about focusing his mind on all the positive work he has put in during his training so as to have the knowledge and belief that, come race day, he will be fully prepared to produce a performance worthy of all the effort he has put in during the last few months.

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