Training your mind to run long distances....Mental Strength or Madness? I'll let you decide.
For me it was all about just getting myself motivated enough (mental strength) to start, then disciplined enough to keep going.
In the beginning it’s just about getting started, as was the case with a friend of mine when his new partner wanted to be a runner like him. The simple instruction he gave was just go out and do it, at first run walk, then run a little more and walk a little less and when you can run a kilometre without walking give yourself a big cheer because you’re on your way to becoming a runner like me. Great advice.
Those early months are about struggle and achievement, about getting yourself out the door and making it a habit, about getting your muscles into condition so they can carry you a bit further. It’s also about dealing with your new friend, the one that pops up and says, that’s ok you can walk now. This is the point at which most of us began to train our mind to accept that we were capable of going further as our fitness improved, and it took longer for the, you can walk now, to surface.
After a period of time the rapid rate of improvement slowed as the muscles played catch up, so then it was about finding the motivation to keep going out there in the cold and the dark. For me it was not too difficult as there were some fun runs in the area that were around 12km, so I could work toward these, and about this time I started keeping a running dairy, which was a great incentive as I would feel as guilty as hell if I went more than a day without writing something in it.
A couple of years on and along with some work friends I paid a one event registration and ran in a 20mile road race with club athletes and loved the whole atmosphere, though from just past the halfway point I had some battles with my old friend, you can walk now, and won.
Coming off this race on a high four of us decided to enter the local Marathon which was about five months away and this was where my real lessons in mental strength began. Of course I had no idea how I was going to run it, however in the weeks leading up to the race I implanted in my head that I was going to start out easy and I would finish it.
The first error of judgement was getting hooked up with all those other enthusiastic idiots that go racing of down the road waving to the cameras, I mean if you are breathing really hard and sweating profusely at 5km you know you went out to fast, considering the race is in the middle of winter.
The Mojo Runners 4 Lessons in Running are:
Lesson #1 Run Your Own Race
Have the ability to ignore others and run your own race. The second error is getting to half way, looking at your watch and doubling the time, then thinking if I start pushing a bit I could do a really good time.
Lesson #2 Be Patient With Yourself
Be patient, tell yourself it’s a long way and have a conversation with your body before making any crazy decisions. Then comes the final part where you realise because its winter and cold you haven’t taken enough water, you’re falling apart and there’s still 10km to go.
Lesson #3 Learn Humility
This is where you learn humility, because no matter how strong you would like to be, or how foolish you may feel, sometimes you just have to admit you stuffed up, listen to your body, take some advice from your old friend and take some walk breaks. Then there it is, the finish line... and all the battles are forgotten in the glory of the moment, so after throwing up in the waste bin you realise you’re a hero.
Lesson #4 Don't Be A Quitter
You finished what you started, because you had implanted that definite goal in your head at no stage did you consider quitting.
So now that we’ve got that sorted where’s the entry form for that next marathon?
By the time I had run another 20+ marathons I had pretty much sorted the mental side of things and had moved on to ultra’s which I believe needs a different approach and greater degree of mental preparation, but I’ll get back to you on that.
So go run and don’t forget to have fun. Robert.