Anxious about running the London Marathon? You could have ‘maranoia’

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Maranoia is the specific kind of paranoia and worry that creeps up on you as you get closer to running a marathon.

Any twinge becomes a ruptured ligament, that tickle in your throat is definitely the onset of tuberculosis.

Cast your mind back many months to when you first signed up to run the marathon. You were all smiles, excitement and smug tweets about fundraising.

But now – the race is just around the corner and anxiety is rearing its ugly head. And it’s making you paranoid.

Logically speaking, there is no higher chance of you getting ill or injured just because you are closer to the start line – but now the stakes are immeasurably higher.

You have already done months of training, weeks of gruelling runs, sacrificed late nights and boozy dinners to get yourself in the best shape possible.

Having to pull out now would be unthinkable. So why is it all we can think about? And how do we switch off those spiralling thoughts?

Becky ran her first marathon in 2016. This year will be her second and she plans to take her performance up a notch. But that expectation comes with a healthy dose of pressure.

‘I have been taking my marathon training really seriously – which I don’t doubt has been annoying for everyone around me,’ Becky tells

‘No drinking in the last month, endless fundraising appeals on social media and flaking on friends for mammoth training sessions.

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‘Now I have more time to think about what’s coming, I can honestly say it is the most exciting, terrifying, anxious period of my life.

‘Maranoia is definitely affecting me.

‘Since my final 20-mile run, my knee has been stiff – understandably, right? – but my brain is enjoying telling me that it’s broken and I’m not going to be able to run.

‘When I hear someone sneeze across the office, I am terrified I will catch the flu before the big day.

‘As a Londoner, I’m even taking more care when crossing the road – no more jaywalking for me. Until that green man shows, I’m not moving.

‘Then there’s the panic of, “can I actually do this?” I have an unbelievable support network that I am immensely grateful for, but it doesn’t stop the doubts.’

The cause of the anxiety is pretty obvious. Running 26.2 miles is no mean feat, and the fears of not completing it, hurting yourself, or letting people down are completely understandable.

So what can you do with all the nervous energy? Experts say that it is possible to harness it and use it to your advantage.

‘It’s likely that you will feel anxious before a marathon. After all it’s the culmination of weeks of training, and you will want to get the best possible result,’ Dr Clare Morrison of Medexpress tells

‘A little anxiety is no bad thing, because it will help your body prepare physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.

‘The adrenaline will ensure that your heart and muscles receive a good blood supply, and hence plenty of oxygen and glucose.

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‘However, too much anxiety could affect your sleep, sap your energy, and increase the strain on your body, so it’s helpful to find ways to counteract it.’

This is something Georgia really needs to keep in mind. A frequent runner, she says the build up to a big race always goes the same way.

‘The closer I get to an event, the more my mind gets carried away with potential things that could go wrong,’ exlplains Georgia.

‘My brain spirals any slight twinge or tight muscle into a full-blown injury, often accompanied by info from Dr Google in the worst case scenarios.

‘I once convinced myself I had got a stress fracture because my shin kept twinging and I had to be talked down by my boss – who is luckily also a runner.

‘Weirdly, the more I panicked, the worse any twinges would feel.

‘I used to work at a running magazine, so I read up on our archives to reassure myself that nothing was wrong, and if I had a major concern then I’d visit a physio.’

The London Marathon will be the first time that Julie has got through the ballot, and as the day of the race creeps closer, she is feeling the pressure.

‘The final two weeks have definitely been stressful – you get to the stage that you are convinced that something has and will go wrong,’ Julie tells

‘I am surprised about how all-consuming it becomes and I wonder if it’s because I’m a novice runner. It has affected all aspects of my life and it has even left me feeling like a failure and wanting to quit.

‘I do feel like it has increased anxiety in me and is actually having an adverse impact on my mental state.

‘So I cope by being supported by amazing family, friends and colleagues and laugh. I have decided that the run itself is not about the time, but the charity I am raising money for. That’s what keeps me going.’

Seeking professional help if you are genuinely concerned about a niggle or an injury is a good port of call. But if you’re ailments are more in your head, there are things you can do to help calm your ravaged nerves.

Dr Clare Morrison has a four-step strategy that might help keep your maranoia at bay.


‘The first priority is preparation.

‘It goes without saying that if you have properly trained during the weeks beforehand, it will help you feel confident that you can cope. However, preparation also includes wearing the right shoes, socks and clothing, so that you feel comfortable.

‘Don’t forget sunscreen if necessary, and Vaseline to reduce chafing. A running belt, to carry bottles of water, is also helpful.

‘Do be sure to go to the toilet before the race, and allow plenty of time in case there are queues.’


‘The day before the run, eat plenty of complex carbohydrates. These could include wholegrain bread, pasta, potatoes, oatmeal and fruit.

‘Also eat some protein, such as fish, eggs, diary and nuts, to help repair the muscles subsequently.

‘On the day of the run, eat more complex carbs, but not a huge meal, as you don’t want to be too bloated and full.

‘Ensure that you drink enough water before and during the run, as you will lose a good deal of sweat. A burst of caffeine, in the form of coffee or cola, before or during the marathon, may help spur you on.’

Positive thinking

‘At this stage, it’s important to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

‘Your performance will be better if you feel relaxed and in control, so think about how fit and strong you are.

‘Don’t compare yourself unfavourably to others, but concentrate on doing your own personal best. Focus on what you have achieved during your training sessions, and how well you have done to get to this stage.’


‘Use whatever relaxation strategies work best for you.

‘Some benefit from chatting to others, including friends, family and other runners, to help keep the nerves at bay. Alternatively, you may prefer to listen to music, or meditate quietly.

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‘A shower, or bath may help you relax, but make sure it isn’t too hot or prolonged, as this could make you sweat. Other methods of relaxation could include yoga, walking, gentle stretching, or controlled breathing.’

For Becky, nerves are part of the process. She is trying to accept how she feels and not let it ruin her experience.

‘I would say marathon training comes down to 50% training and 50% attitude,’ she tells us.

‘If you think you can, you’re half way there, but the weeks leading up to marathon day don’t count.

‘Virgin Marathon tweeted this message: ‘If you’re aching you’re normal. If you’re nervous you’re normal. If you’re scared you’re normal. If you’re not sure you can do it you’re normal. Two weeks to go, you’ve got this.’

‘Nobody could put it better.’

If your worrying is becoming a serious problem, or stopping you from training or enjoying yourself, then it would be wise to mention it to your GP and get some support.

But if you are struggling with maranoia, just know that you are not alone.

Before you know it, you’ll be on that start line with your heart in your mouth – but the pay-off when you cross the finish line will almost certainly be worth it. Sheer elation.

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