You train for months and log countless miles to prepare yourself for a marathon. And often times what makes or breaks your race is the last 6.2 miles—the final 10K. Those final miles are notoriously grueling. It’s the place where some hit the “wall” and others struggle mentally to push just a “little bit” farther.
If you’ve fueled, hydrated and paced yourself well, then running a strong final 10K is within your reach. Sometimes it just takes a few mental tricks to get you across the finish line. Here are a few that have helped me finish strong:
1. Take one mile at a time. When you hit that 20 mile mark there’s a sense of relief: “Only six miles to go!” But sometimes mile 21 can feel like the longest mile of the entire marathon, because even though you’ve hit mile 20 you still have six miles to go. Instead of counting down the six remaining miles, take one mile at a time. Focus on running strong until the next mile marker, make your focus smaller and pick landmarks along the road to get to. And if you need to repeat the mantra: run the mile you’re in.
2. Think of the same distance at home. Let’s say you just passed the 23-mile marker. Instead of thinking that there’s a 5K left, imagine where you’d be if you were 3 miles from home. Visualize the houses you pass, the turns, the street markers. Take yourself home to that road or trail and think about how many times you’ve been at the end of a long run with only three miles to go and you finished strong.
3. Focus on form. In the later stages of the race, form tends to break down with fatigue. When your legs get tired in those final miles, sometimes the most effective thing is to switch your focus to your arms or your posture. Instead of trying to make your legs turn over, think of swinging your arms faster. Check your posture and try to engage your core. Changing your form and posture will mean a more efficient stride and that will automatically make you slightly faster.