Strenuous running sometimes seems more mental than it does physical, in that the state of your mind will dictate how strong you feel. I have countless experiences that prove this statement, whether it is increased performance while listening to motivating music, increased performance from a really good daydream (I do this a lot), or decreased performance when non-running stressors weigh on my conscience heavily. The power of the mind to dictate to your body, no matter how fatigued your body SHOULD feel is pretty unbelievable at times.
Running with this group of guys who are all in a similar range of each other…relatively, gives me interesting insight into the way their minds work in relation to racing and running in general. As I’ve been running solo for two years straight, I’ve always wondered a few things about my “competition”, namely “Do they take racing as seriously as I do?” I don’t mean to say I’m above and beyond anybody in my dedication, but rather, I’ve always wondered if they get as nervous as I do leading up to a race and prepare mentally as much as they do physically? I, for one, tend to freak out. As I’ve gotten more accustomed and familiar with the racing environment, while drawing on my history with racing, my pre-race freakouts have subsided to a degree. Though, if you ask Michelle, she’d tell you different. She often comments on how I do “the nervous dance” before a race, bouncing around, fidgeting, basically looking like a freshman at their first high school dance. The thing is, that’s just before a race, and doesn’t even include the weeks of buildup prior.
Personally, I see my excessive nervousness and worry as an asset to my running, as it forces me to prepare for the effort that is to lie ahead. And no matter how small the race, in participation, competition, or distance, I deeply prepare to run hard, but I know this isn’t the case with others. Some of the guys I run with are so good that jumping into a race they stumbled upon on their way home from work is nothing. Placing while doing so is no big thing either. That is unimaginable to me though. I have to make sure I’m feeling good enough to race and prepare my mind for the strain that is to come. It takes an extreme level of comfort, in my view, to just go into a race no matter what.
Then there are those in the group that are so good and have raced so much, that basically pulling up and jogging the rest of the course in first place is nothing (yup, been done) instead of pushing all out. There are also those that just don’t feel into the race and debate quitting after running well past the half-way point. Honestly, to each his/her own…but that really isn’t me. I have to invest myself into it fully, not giving an inch to myself, no matter the circumstances or how I might feel at the time.
Today, one of the guys was discussing how he might pull out of the Chicago Marathon if it’s too hot the day of, basically implying that he would wait until the very day of the race before deciding to run it. This isn’t as flippant as it sounds being that he wants his training to be utilized to its fullest potential on race day and wants the conditions to favor him. It’s not a bad strategy, but damn, there is no way I could invest the mental effort leading up to Chicago and then bail the last second. I’m not knocking him for this decision at all, but again, that’s just not me. In almost everything I do, I focus on one or two tasks and invest myself heavily, and right now Chicago is one of my main investments. From here on out I don’t train for “some races” coming up…I’m training very specifically for Chicago. I think about Chicago a lot. When out on my runs I envision racing in Chicago with its many possible outcomes. And it’s still OVER 3 MONTHS AWAY. I have a lot of time to mentally prepare and without a doubt I will be ready for Chicago mentally if not physically come October 11th.
Now, I understand many may see this as overkill, or even unnecessary considering my relative distance from a podium placing….which is to say WORLDS AWAY, but I guess that isn’t the point for me. I don’t half-ass much of anything I put effort into, especially something that involves this much time and effort. The thing is though, having Chicago as my goal puts me into a much deeper mental dedication than I ever have, which in turn compels me to run longer and stronger than I ever have. I’m not messing around and I have an intense respect for my fellow runners who are doing the same, being “appropriately intimidated” by the marathon distance and using it as a motivation to go the extra mile…literally.
My running lately has felt difficult due to the increase of miles I’ve been putting in coupled with the intensity, but my mental perspective has given me the ability to power through and ultimately grow stronger and stronger. Mind over matter. I can’t stress this enough.
2 hours of easy running for a total of 18 miles. I was going to do 20 but my tendon started to flare up towards the end, so I figured it was best I cut it short and get ready for Tuesday’s workout.
Breakfast – 3 pieces of toast w/ peanut butter and tofutti cream cheese, coffee, water
Lunch – Pasta w/ nutritional yeast and lemon pepper
Dinner – Cous Cous with veggies, potatoes and spices, Corn on the Cob
Snacks – Coffee, Warm grape nuts cereal with maragarine and brown sugar, Temptation Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Root beer (leftover party snacks).