Have you ever heard someone say that running is 99% mental? OK, yes, I've said it before too... it's probably not totally true... but I would say it's at least 50% mental. I do believe you have to put in the miles to reap the rewards, but the head can be a powerful barrier.
Before I popped out a triumverate of munchkins, I was an engineer... which means my mind is prone to logic only. It means that for me, I really thought it all revolved around the physical training. And I sort of winced at people who touted "it's all mental". Yeah, whatever... if it were just mental, I would be running Badwater! I had heard people talking about "visualizing" the race, which to me, honestly, sounded really ridiculous.
It took a lot of running for me to understand the mental game... both how tough it can be and how absolutely crucial it is to a good race... how a positive attitude can literally turn a so-so race into a triumph. Also, how saying "I can't" can take every single ounce of fight out of a person for the entire rest of the race... all of a sudden everything seems insurmountable.
But what I really wanted to talk about is how training contributes to the ultimate mental game. Have you ever asked or been asked - when does running get easier? I don't know that it ever gets "easier" per se. I still have bad days, good days, and so-so days. It's always a push, even if I'm not in misery like on the bad days. So why train... if it's just going to hurt, why put yourself through it time and time again before the race. To me, the absolute most powerful tool to have in your mental toolbox is the "I know I can."
At this point in my running, if someone asks me to get up on any given day and run 12 miles, I wouldn't even flinch or question if I could do it. I'd just gladly accept and get out there. The truth is, I might struggle just as much through that 12 miles as a beginner doing it for the first time. The difference is that "I Know I Can." The I-Know-I-Can is very powerful in the mental battle. If you've done 26.2, what's that last couple miles in a half? If you've done 13.1, what's that last mile in a 10k. You *know* you can conquer the distance. You've done it before. And no matter how much it hurts or is uncomfortable, there's something in your mind that keeps repeating back all the occassions you have pushed for this long (or even much longer) before. I might not be able to do it at the pace I want, but on any given day, I know I have the stamina and mental capability of going a certain distance. This is crucial for me... and fortunately, I feel confident in it. The "I can't"s only start to creep in when I hit new distances... I try to tune them out, but I'm human... it happens... but I have amazed myself at my ability to endure some pretty dreadful runs because I-Know-I-Can.
Do you know you can?
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