Before every run is a race between your mind and an excuse. Win it.
Every once in a while we all have one – a bad run. This past weekend I guess it was my turn for a bad run. My training plan had me scheduled for an 18-mile run. The entire time I was running I felt like I was fighting with myself. I struggled to finish but it was not a comfortable run. When I finally finished, I allowed myself a moment of weakness to let it all out and I cried. I cried out of frustration; I cried out of disappointment in myself; I cried because I was tired and my body hurt; I cried because my Transverse Myelitis makes things harder for me. I have a big weekend of races next week and I want to go into them strong. This run didn’t help me feel confident about how I will do.
While a big part of running a marathon is the physical aspect, the mental game is extremely important too. I have read this quote many times over the years and it pretty well sums up the marathon mental game:
Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you probably have figured out that I like to read about people who do incredible feats, like the marathon monks of Mt. Hiei or Lewis Pugh, the open-water long-distance swimmer who swam in the world’s most inhospitable waters. I read their stories to learn how they slay the mental dragons that would keep them from reaching their goals.
During my run, I tried letting my mind go empty like the monks do on their marathon walks. As hard as I tried, I found my mind firmly focused on negative things – my pain, my exhaustion, my frustration. Worse yet, my mind was giving up on everything.
Then I tried to rally my adrenaline like Lewis Pugh and direct my energy towards the run, kicking the butt of every one of those 18 miles. But I am not a former SAS reservist. I don’t have the toughness and tenacity that rigorous military training would give me. I didn’t have the strength to turn a negative into a positive. I couldn’t kick a rock, let alone a mile.
Lewis had a really bad test swim right before he successfully swam at the North Pole. He took time to figure out why things went wrong and then went about making changes to ensure that they did not happen again.
Taking a page from Lewis Pugh’s book, I realize that I have to get my mental game back before my next race. I am analyzing my 18-mile run to figure out what I could have done differently. More sleep? Better nutrition before the run? Slowing my pace? Focusing on my breathing? Yes, probably all of the above and a few more things.
Attitude is everything. You simply cannot be beaten if, at the end of the day, some tiny part of you can still whisper, “I will try again tomorrow.”
I guess it was a blessing that my bad run was during training and not during a race. My race pictures would have been pretty lousy if I was boohoo-ing in them. It reminds me that I am human and that every once in a while things won’t go perfectly. With that in mind I plan to have a positive report on next weekend’s races.