You couldn’t ask for a better day for a run — especially a long run: The bluest sky, ever-so-slight breeze and golden-warm sunshine that made the high 30-degree weather nothing short of perfect for an 18-miler out Old Mission Peninsula.
The run was great…until it wasn’t. Around mile 14 is when I became thirsty — I mean, really thirsty. This was a first for me. I just don’t generally drink a bunch during runs, even longer ones, because I’ve tended to get side cramps when I do. I know, I know, not smart for the longer distances I’m tackling leading up to the marathon. But it’s just how it’s been.
I also realized — later of course — that it really would have been wise to bring with me more than just one Gu. I’d sucked down the espresso-chocolate flavored Gu around mile 7 and really could have used another one with that nice ice-cold cup of water I was dreaming about.
So my fuel situation wasn’t good with just a few miles to go…but I also quickly realized another problem: my head was a mess. Likely the lack of energy played a role in this — it’s amazing how our minds and bodies work together like that. Heads games led to my legs feeling heavier. I wanted to stop. I actually DID stop, to tie my shoe, and I swear that simple act of pausing my workout, given my frame of mind, gave my tired body a taste of how very good it would feel to just call it good. And so, when a mile later I still wasn’t feeling it mentally or physically, I came to another short stop, walking several feet before telling myself to just.get.going. The quicker I get moving, the faster I’m done with this run!
This kind of self-defeating running behavior pretty much continued the final 2-3 miles until I made it to my car. So back-and-forth was I about my run (stop, now go, OK stop for a sec, GO) that I end up running pretty much in circles in the parking lot where I’d first started more than two hours prior. I was determined to get to 18 miles. Determined. Even if it meant running past my car and turning around on cramped legs and with a mixed-up mind. When I finally finished, I actually said out loud to myself about my finale, “That was ridiculous.”
Needless to say, this long run was not my favorite. Not even by a long shot. And to think it all started out so well with the ideal weather conditions. Lots of runners and road bikers were out on the roads, too, which was encouraging. But when your heads goes elsewhere, well…the demons in your head, as my friend Michele and me call them, really can get the better of you.
Which is why I’ve decided to get serious about getting the junk out of my head (as much as possible) and fill it with uplifting, positive, I-can-do-anything-I-put-my-mind-to (thank you, Eminem) thinking. Cheesy? Pollyanna-ish? Nah, I don’t think so. After all, from talking with other athletes, I know this is something many of us face. Many (all?) of us have battled that voice in our head that tells us you can’t do this, what were you thinking anyway? You probably won’t finish the way you’d like to … But we don’t have to accept these statements as truth and let them change our plans to succeed.
Talking with Lisa about the mental roadblocks athletes face, she makes this statement: “I think a person could go out and run 26.2 miles without any training if their will to do it was strong enough. The mind is that powerful.”
Now, would she recommend this? Of course not. Training is essential. But I understand what she’s saying, that our minds hold an amazing amount of strength just waiting to be unleashed. When you have that willpower — that grit, as I read recently in a really interesting Women’s Health article — you truly can accomplish great, great things.
So here’s what I’m doing, and I’d love to add to my list if you’ve got any other good ideas or things that have worked well for you. Starting today, I’ve officially added reading to my marathon training. OK, so I’m already a pretty avid reader, but I’m talking about seeking out a few specific titles that inspire. Here’s what I have so far:
* Just Don’t Fall, “a hilariously true story of childhood cancer, amputation, romantic yearning, truth and Olympic greatness,” by Josh Sundquist. When I shared with my friend Meg my quest for motivating stories, she immediately said, “I have a book for you.” This was it.
* The Art of Racing in the Rain, a novel by Garth Stein that I’ve been hearing about for some time. After a friend suggested I pick it up because it holds so many nuggets of great inspiration, I decided it was a sign and stopped by my local bookstore to buy it.
* The Dip, a short and sweet book by Seth Godin that my husband recently found at the library. What is the dip? It could be many things, including (as listed on the back of the book jacket): “the middle of the marathon, when the excitement of the starting gun is a dim memory, and the joy of the finish line is a distant dream.” It’s about knowing when to quit in life and when to stick it out. Of course, I don’t want to quit training for this race, and I definitely don’t want to quit halfway through the race itself…but how can we best stick it out, if in fact we are willing to see “it” through? I hope to find some insight in this book.
I’d also like to recommend the movie Prefontaine if you haven’t seen it. Most runners hear ‘Prefontaine’ and immediately think legendary track and field star Steve Prefontaine. Me, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve only learned more about “Pre” in the past year, since traveling to Eugene, Ore. for a half marathon. He was an amazing runner who tragically died too young, at the age of 24. But he shattered records and his spirit for life and passion for running is incredibly inspiring. My favorite Steve Prefonatine quote: “A lot of people run to see who’s the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts.”
What helps you overcome your demons? What helps you believe with all of your heart that your greatest running wish will in fact come true?