High Performance Lessons from the London Marathon

Running marathon
Running marathon
Reading time: 5 minutes

Now in it’s 36th year, the London Marathon took place yesterday. Like other big city marathons, it’s a massive event attracting world class runners. It captures the imagination of the public and turns the city running crazy for a few weeks.

Every year, inspirational marathon stories hit the headlines with great high performance insight to be extracted from it.

We thought we’d pick our top 5 high performance lessons from the marathon to share with you…

1. The bar was raised – yet again

The race delivered some stunning world class performances. Helped by near perfect conditions, the pace set in both the women and mens races was blisteringly fast through the first half of the marathon.  Daniel Wanjuri narrowly missed out on breaking the mens record while the womens-only world record was broken by Kenyan Mary Keitany – her time of 2-17-01 beat Paula Radcliffe’s 2005 record by 41 seconds.

It was a great example of how the boundaries of human performance and capacity continue to be pushed, as athletes, coaches and scientists continue to explore and evolve new ways of maximising endurance performance. The first sub 2 hour marathon may not be far away!

2. Human spirit at it’s best

There’s something about a marathon that gets the best out of us – maybe it’s because the challenge pushes us physically and mentally to our limits. Every year, there’s a ‘human spirit’ story that hits the headlines and this year was no exception. This year’s award goes to Matthew Rees, a sub-3 hour marathon runner, who sacrificed his own ambitions and targets to help a fellow runner – who he’d never met before – along the final 300m to the finish.

He said his mission changed to getting them both over the line in 3 hours, and he was doing what “anyone else would have done…that’s what the marathon is all about”.

The high performance insight? Not letting go of your values and losing sight of the ‘higher’ purpose, in the face of chasing results.

3. The Weir-Wolf strikes again!

A special shout-out, from a performance perspective, goes to David Weir. David dramatically won his 7th London Marathon at the age of 37. The six-time Paralympic Gold medallist has had a rough time of late, including a disappointing Rio Games and a fall out with GB athletics authorities, which prompted his decision to retire from international sport.

To come back and produce a compelling and commanding display yesterday, was a testament to David’s resolve, focus and competitiveness.

4. Running changes lives

In the build up this year, there was much said about the power of running to change lives. There were inspirational stories about how running, with the marathon as a catalyst to start running, had given people meaning, purpose, confidence, self-esteem, a sense of empowerment and achievement. In some cases, it was a mechanism for managing mental health issues.

We know exercise is a key part of energy management for performance, but it was a great reminder of the power of exercise (and a marathon challenge) to be transformational in changing our core perceptions and beliefs about ourselves.

5. Anything is possible?

We constantly put limits on ourselves; our own and others beliefs give us strong messages about what we can and can’t, do. So, spare a thought for Josh Griffiths, a 23 year old club runner from Wales. Josh, who has no coach and very little support that elite athletes can get, finished as the top British male in 2-14-49, earning himself a place in the GB team at the World Athletics Championships in August.

Josh clearly had an exceptional race, but behind the headlines, there’s a story of someone who prepared meticulously and placed no limit on himself and what he was capable of.

What would you be capable of if you chose a similar mindset?

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