Confidence and optimism to walk the London Marathon

On Sunday, I walked a marathon.  The Virtual London Marathon to be specific.  Arguably the most iconic of marathon’s, which normally takes place (unsurpisingly!) in London in April, this year’s event morphed into a virtual event, which could be run anywhere in the globe, with a 24 hour window for completion.

I didn’t have a place at the April London Marathon.  I am currently awaiting surgery for a torn cartliage in my knee.  I haven’t run since March 2020 (when the tear happened), and I only took up distance (nordic) walking in  June.

So what possessed me, on August 24, to decide that just 6 weeks later I’d be able to walk 26.2 miles, on what turned out to be one of the wettest, wildest, autumnal days!?

Sheer bloody mindedness possibly.  But in the creation of our Performance Wellbeing framework, we’ve been exploring the component aspect of resilience, and identified the concept of self-efficacy – ‘an individual’s confidence in their ability to complete a task or achieve a goal.’

The concept was originally developed by Albert Bandura, in 2008.  Bandura’s work also proposes that the ability to maintain optimism in the face of tough odds is in fact key to successful attainment of goals.

So if confidence and optimism are key to success, what gave me the confidence and optimism to sign up for the Virtual London Marathon?

  1. My goal was simple.  To finish.  No ‘gold time’ in mind. I knew I had 24 hours to complete the distance, and scheduled a start of 7:45am to give myself a frame of 16 hours  (although I did momentarily consider setting up at 3am when I was wide awake with nerves..)
  2. I’d planned my route, my clothing, my food choices, and the necessary 3 changes in trainers. I knew where to plan to walk when full of energy, and where to take the easy option later in the walk, I knew it was important for the route to be varied and well populated, to give me the biggest chance of a passing ‘Good Luck’ holler
  3. I mentally broke the distance into manageable chunks.  I had completed two 14 mile training walks, which meant I knew if I could achieve 16 miles in one go in the a.m., I had loads of time to tackle the remaining 10 miles
  4. My support crew was on a rota, and knew their role was to be positive, and bring an endless stream of conversation topics (and sweets!)  Two brilliant friends joined me –  one from mile 8 to mile 15, and one from mile 17 to mile 24, meaning my husband and son walked with me from mile 24 to the end
  5. I made no fanfare about participating. In fact, I hardly let anyone know.  This was a deliberate pressure management choice of mine.. it gave me the opportunity to stop if the knee wasn’t up to it

I actually walked the whole route continuously, (apart from a quick cheese and pickle sandwich/toilet break at 17 miles!) and finished in a time of 8 hours and 46 secs (.. did I groan about those 46 secs? you bet!)  This was my third marathon experience (both the other times I have been as a runner in a major event with thousands of others and hoardes of spectators) and I can honestly say that this was THE MOST ENJOYABLE.

Why? I believe the choices I made gave me confidence.  The ability to start when I wanted to, the route that I planned, the friends who I approached to support me, the mental focus I had on ‘just finishing’.  While I didn’t recognise my confidence, even stating, ‘I may not finish’ as I headed out of the door, I had essentially given myself the best shot at completing the 26.2 miles.

One of my favourite quotes by R.S Grey, engraved on a bracelet I wear while running (and walking!), reads ‘She believed she could, so she did.’  Seems to me R.S Grey and Albert Bandura would have a lot to talk about…




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Michaela Weller

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