Davey told me he didn’t want to run with me anymore.
We always train for triathlons together and we have been training for the NYC marathon since August and since we want to run our first marathon together, Davey is AWESOME and has been training with me at my (slower) pace.
Anyway, on this particular day, (we had a 20 mile run scheduled… our longest run everrrr) we were planning our route when Davey said, “why don’t you just run the 20 miles on your own.”
That comment catapulted me into the harsh reality that I had turned into a MONSTER over the course of our training. I can’t blame Davey for not wanting to run with me. I was mean, sassy, rude and had a bad attitude on most of our runs.
Basically, I was failing miserably when it came to my mental toughness.
Ever since that day, I have been determined to “train my brain”, boost my mental toughness and find strategies that will help me push through challenges, overcome discouragement and become a pleasant, positive and happy person to run with.
Here are 5 things that have helped me ramp up my mental game as I start to taper for my first marathon:
One of the things that was turning me into a running monster was the fact that I was focusing on negative things. Actually, I was looking for something to be angry about just to justify my childish bad attitude. Pretty pathetic, I know.
The truth is, you will always be able to find something negative to dwell on, especially if you’re looking for it. So stop looking for it and be grateful because there is always a reason to be grateful.
Nowadays, during every run, I try to come up with 10 things to be thankful for. I’ve started calling it “My 10 great things” list. I count them on my fingers as I run along and it takes my mind off of running. And I can usually come up with wayyyy more than just 10.
This has been the #1 most helpful thing that I’ve done to improve my mental toughness. It’s SO simple, but so easily overlooked and underestimated.
Being grateful is powerful.
2. Own it
No one forced me to register for a marathon. I willingly registered because it’s something that has been a dream of mine for years. However, when I have a rough run or I am discouraged because I don’t feel like I’m making any progress, it’s easy to play the victim card and mope around saying, “poor me, I suck.”, and “Who’s idea was this anyway?”.
But I am NOT a victim, I’m a victor! And you are too! Training for a race of any length is HARD! It takes courage and perseverance and dedication. Own it. You signed up for it, you trained for it and you’re gonna be the one to get yourself across the finish line.
You’ll have days when you feel like you can crush your goal and set a new PR, and days when you want to quit. But no matter how you feel on any given day, remember that you signed up for this race because you wanted to push yourself and challenge your abilities and that is exactly what is happening. You’re being challenged and stretched.
So own it, accept the challenges and struggles that you face as part of YOUR unique journey and keep moving forward with your eyes focused on your goal.
3. Stop “Shoulding”
The other day I randomly decided to try out Davey’s heart rate monitor for the first time ever. We ran 3 miles at a 10:30 pace and my heart rate was in the 180’s the whole time. I was furious. My thoughts were swirling in a downward spiral and they sounded something like this:
“Why is my heart rate so high? We’ve been training for months and it should be lower. I should be in better shape. I should be able to run 3 miles much faster than I did and it should be much easier than it is. What is wrong with me? Maybe I should go see a cardiologist. I probably have a heart condition because my heart rate shouldn’t be so high. What if I drop dead during the race?”
And no. My “shoulding” didn’t stop there. It went on and on and on. And it took me out of the game for almost a week. This was the lowest point in my training and I knew I couldn’t continue on like this. So I decided to stop “shoulding”.
My mental toughness improved dramatically when I let go of where I thought I “should be” in my training and accepted that I was where I was. Simply accepting where I was at the present moment released a lot of unnecessary and unrealistic pressure and allowed me enjoy the journey and be more fully present along the way.
4. Visualize and imagine the end goal/race day
As race day approaches, I love to imagine what it will be like to run across the Verrazano Bridge or through the crowded streets full of cheering fans in Brooklyn, or how I’ll feel when I finally cross the finish line of my first marathon. Of course race day will probably be a lot different then what I imagine, but it’s still fun, and helpful to imagine.
Visualizing yourself reaching your end goal can significantly improve your mental toughness. One thing I like to do is to watch YouTube videos of the actual course. It helps me visualize the race. This one in particular is my favorite:
5. This video
In case you’re wondering, Davey did end up running the 20 miler with me and it was one of the most peaceful, positive and amazing runs we’ve ever done together.
I’m telling you, train your brain. It works.