The Toughest Distance to Conquer

Mental Monday!
In the 10 years since I took up running, I have competed in these distances:
5k, 10K, 15K, 13.1 miles, 26.2 miles, and even a trail 50K! What do you think has been my toughest distance to conquer?
I’ll answer that in a minute. First, a couple of related anecdotes.

 3-2-2019: Myrtle Beach Marathon

As I wrote in my Bugs and Windshields post recently, my Myrtle Beach Marathon was a big disappointmentI never put out what my time goal was for that marathon, but at a minimum, I wanted to re-qualify for the Boston Marathon, which meant I needed to run a 3:25:00 or better. I was on track much of the first half then crashed and burned. It might be the only race I considered bailing, but I persevered.
I finished in a very exhausting 3:45:17  and eventually accepted this wasn’t a total failure. After all, I did finish a marathon. However, at this point in my running “career,” finishing usually isn’t the point. I could run a marathon every month if finishing was my goal. I’d just run much slower.
The week after Myrtle Beach, I took a few days to regroup/sulk. By Wednesday, I felt like running again but waited until Thursday. By Sunday, my coach and I had a new target race – a half marathon at the end of April. Back to the grind.

 3-30-2019: Dam Long Run

Lake Murray Dam Towers

Lake Murray Dam Towers

The Saturday morning alarm came way too early this past weekend.  Remember, Saturday is long run day for me, and this week’s long run was going to be tough – 12 miles with four intervals of two miles at a 7:10/mile pace during the workout (that’s tough for me!).

Exhausted physically and mentally this week, I did not want to do it.  I wanted to return to bed and perhaps do the run later in the day. However, I knew “later” would not work. Fortunately, on Friday, I knew this might be the case, so I made a decision to do my workout at the Lake Murray dam, a place I go from time to time to add variety to my runs. I showed up at 7:30 a.m. and did my workout. Despite the fatigue, I came pretty close to meeting my time goals.

So, why did I tell you those two stories? To highlight the toughest distance to conquer. See, it’s not any of those mileages I mentioned at the beginning of this post (trick question!). They each have their own unique strategies and challenges, but the toughest distance to conquer in endurance sports, and much of life, is the distance between your ears, a.k.a your mind. While I’m not sure you can fully conquer the mind, you can develop strategies and habits that quiet the negative/quitter voices and keep you moving toward your goals.

However, the strategies that work for me might not work for you. It’s only through experimenting can you figure this out. I’ve also discovered this to be an evolving process. My motivations from 10 years ago are no longer the same. The ultimate key to me being able to keep running is that I managed to stick with it until it became part of my identity.

Here are some suggestions to help you with your mind and keep you on track with your goals:

  •  Find an accountability partner. Early on, I was fortunate to meet a co-worker who was on a similar fitness journey. We went to the gym together, ran races together, and encouraged and pushed each other towards our goals.
  • Hire a coach or adopt a mentor. My early running mentors were books I read. Later, I realized I needed more personalized instructions and found a coach.
  • Figure out your “Why?” This is the most important piece of the puzzle and what has evolved for me over time with respect to running and fitness. What started as a need to combat stress turned into a desire to improve, and now is a quest to push the physical and mental limits of a guy over 50.

These suggestions are not only for running or fitness. I’ve used the first two in my writing journey, and I’m currently working on my “Why?” as it relates to writing.

What about you?

Thanks for reading.


The Whole Dam

The Whole Dam

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