Marathon runner Jessica Stenson shares her mental game plan

Marathon champion Jessica Stenson is no stranger to competing on the world stage. Here are her tips on how to prep for a big event to ensure jitters don’t derail it.

As a Commonwealth Games marathon gold medallist, Jessica Stenson knows a thing or two about going the distance.

Jessica has run at events around the world, including two Olympics and three Commonwealth Games, and achieved golden glory at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games when she came first.

“Winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal had been a long-term goal of mine after winning bronze medals in 2014 and 2018 and feeling like I had learnt a lot from those two races,” Jessica says.

“To be feeling strong and able to execute my race plan, and then to cross the line in first place, made it a magical experience that I will treasure forever.”

Wondering how to stay the course? Here are Jessica Stenson’s tips for not letting your nerves get in the way of preparing for and completing a big event: 

1. Focus on what you can control

When it comes to stepping onto the marathon course in front of a crowd of thousands, Jessica, 34, says she focuses on her own preparation and what she can control.

“Keeping this in perspective helps me to block out external factors that are unhelpful to focus on leading up to, or during, competitions,” she says.

So, essentially, it’s important to stay in your own lane and focus on the race you’re running.

“I have a strong belief (in myself), and reassure myself that I have prepared as well as I could have,” Jessica says.

“And I remind myself that I have raced hard with a smart approach many times before and, therefore, can do it again.”

It’s also important to set realistic goals before you tackle a big event like a marathon.

“I set goals that are discussed with my coach,” she says.

“Training is developed specifically to meet these targets and, therefore, my performance should line up with these if I follow my training program.”

2. Get a running buddy, or two

If you’re not sure about tackling a marathon just yet but would like to increase your running capabilities, Jessica suggests joining a running group.

“Or find friends to share the running journey,” she adds.

“Running with others can make the process more enjoyable and help to keep you accountable, particularly on the days when you might not be feeling it.”

3. Make sure you’re comfortable

It’s also important to pay attention to the gear you have, Jessica says.

You don’t need to spend a fortune, but comfortable activewear and well-fitting shoes will ensure you enjoy running.

“Feeling good is the key to getting up and out the front door, so find workout wear that you love and feel happy in,” she says.

4. Be patient

Of course, there will likely be days where the motivation is low or life is hectic, but Jessica says patience is the key to seeing improvements in your performance.

“I recommend starting small and trying to maintain an open mind about what the progress trajectory might look like,” she says.

“Celebrate the small successes as they come; use these to fuel your belief, and also as a source of motivation.”

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Written by Erin Miller.

Photography: Athletics Australia / Steve Christo