Running is all in the mind, ok well not all but lots of it.I
It’s been ages since I’ve written a running blog so here it is, I’ve been spurred on by my lovely friend to get pen to paper.
Over the past few weeks I have been upping my distance as I am doing a virtual half marathon in March (the day before my birthday) and so far, up until this weekend it has all been going really well. I have managed to get up to 10 miles (16KMs) and then….
I went out on a run last Saturday with a route planned out for 11 miles, I had prepared well the previous day. I ate really well, was properly hydrated, slept well the night before and had all my kit ready to go. It was raining when I got up, but I had a great breakfast and laced up and off I went. After the first mile I could have come home, every footstep was tough, and it took all of my mental strength to take each step. My body didn’t feel tired I just felt like I couldn’t do it!
This is worlds away from when I did a 10 miler the other weekend, we’d had a chippy tea the night before and I’d even had a couple of glasses of wine and I to be honest I was dreading the run BUT I absolutely smashed it, it felt good, I felt good and I could have kept on going.
After I finished my 11 miles, by running up and down the road, on the phone (to mum) needing every ounce of enthusiasm she had for me. I asked myself a big question, why? Why was that run so different? Why was it so hard but most importantly how did I manage to do that?
On paper, my 11 miles should have been easier, I was better prepared, I had the confidence of 10 miles under my belt and I had no reason to doubt myself.
Distance aside, all of us will have had runs that are just tough, for no reason, to me these runs are all about mental strength and the ability to overcome the seeds of doubt in your mind and control the challenges we face.
I do have a few strategies to get me through the barrier (not the wall, that’s a completely different kettle of fish BUT these mental runs help prepare you for hitting the wall).
My first strategy is to have run with someone else, it’s so much easier to bounce off each other and bounce back by simply having someone next to you but that’s not always possible especially at the moment.
If I am on my own, I start by allowing my mind to wander off on a thought, about anything. Usually, a replay of something that has happened in my life or a memory of something nice. I always try this early on into my run as it’s hard to detached yourself from what you are doing and becomes hard the more tired you are. For me it really makes the first miles fly by.
Next up, if I notice that I’ve looked at my watch 50 times in the last mile, I turn off the display so I can just see the clock time. As a runner for many years, I spend far too much time thinking about pace, heart rate and distance. I am constantly calculating my finish time from my current pace and although this does motivate me, some days like on Saturday it really wasn’t helpful so removing this temptation makes things feel a little more relaxed which always helps.
I do still occasionally have a look to see how far I’m at, but that is usually as the wave of uncertainty passes across me, it’s hard to describe. It’s not a constant feeling, it can come once, twice or 20 times during a run and there is just no reason for it, just as I have conquered one wave and feel good, the next could be right round the corner or could be gone all together.
Once I am over 4-5 miles when the bout of doubt creeps in my mind, having a drink or some of my snack really helps, it gives my body readily available energy and boy that makes such a difference, I honestly don’t know how long-distance runners run without a drink or food!
I also have a few final strategies that I save for my darkest times, I know I have mentioned this before. I count, I count to a number then start again or go as high as I can. I do easily loose concentration, so I find just counting up to say 100 then starting again is best for me.
The final and probably hardest to master strategy is visualisation, my body has helped me achieve some amazing things and by simply reminding it of the feeling of success it triggers so many happy hormones I can keep going.
For me, I visualise the last 2 miles of the marathon I did in Wales, I can clearly see the mile 25 and 26 marker in my head, I re live getting to mile 25 thinking, I’VE BLOODY DONE IT. Even if something major happens to me now, I know without doubt that I can get over that finish line in good time.
It’s taken me a long time to perfect this art, I practiced at night time first, thinking and allowing myself to fall back into that moment, that feeling. Once I’d got that nailed, I worked on it while I was running and now I can easily (most of the time) spend a few minutes in that moment while I’m running.
Don’t get me wrong, my strategies don’t always work and it’s pure determination that keeps my legs going round and round.
If you are sat reading this thinking, well that doesn’t apply to me I’m not a long-distance runner, then STOP.
No matter how far we run the challenge is still relative, I have been running for years, I have run marathons, halfs and many, many shorter runs but it is relative to my fitness.
If you are starting out on your journey or want to stick with running 5ks, you will have hard run’s too (If not, I want to know why not, as I am very jealous).
Some days, even for an experienced runner, running a relatively short run can be just too much for our bodies and minds. Although I have talked a lot about over coming mental barriers it is important to listen to your body. You should NEVER run through an injury or if you just aren’t physically well enough.
So, in conclusion to my ramblings, I am not sure why Saturday’s run was so hard, why I exhausted all of my strategies and still had nothing left to keep me going but I kept going. All I know is that my next run is a new run and overcoming my mental barriers this week will make me strong than I was before, better equipped and more prepared for the next time I have a run that seems impossible!
Keep running all
Love Rhi xxx