This is hardly an original thought, but running is definitely a mental sport. I was reminded of this fact in a big way today during my medium long run. Yesterday I got in a speed session, 8x800 at just under 5k pace and last night I hit the gym for some strength training and stretching. Add yesterday's activities together and what do you get? Sore legs!
Let me be clear, it's important to recognize the difference between discomfort and actually pain. Running through discomfort is a good thing. You practice using you mind to conquer your body and this is the kind of practice that lead you to push the pace harder in a race or to cover new distances. Running through serious pain is not a good thing--it's a stupid thing. You can end up injuring yourself (like I did with my Achilles a couple of weeks ago) and damaging your future performance potential. Alright, now that I've got that disclaimer out there, let's talk about how the whole mental thing works.
Today I kept thinking about a bigger goal. In this case, that goal is Boston. I know who tired I will feel in the final miles of the marathon. I kept telling myself today, no matter how tired your legs feel, they will feel more tired on April 16 and stopping will not be an option then. I also thought about my reward for this morning's run. When I run to work (as I did today), I buy a giant from the cafeteria for breakfast. I kept telling myself, you have to earn that delicious muffin.
There are plenty of other mental strategies you can use--during the marathon I have a special phrase or mantra (harder, better, faster, stronger--thank you Daft Punk!) that I save for the final miles. Even though I don't listen to music on most runs, if I'm doing a long run by myself, sometimes I'll break out my iPod for the final 2 to 3 miles. The extra energy I get from the music sort of simulates the extra energy I get in most races as I approach the finish line crowds.
What's the point of all this rambling nonsense? It's just as important to practice these various mental strategies during your training as it is to put in the physical effort. Knowing how to use these mental strategies on race day can really give you a boost. Let's just hope I can practice what I preach on April 16!
Today's Run: 13.3 miles at 7:50 pace.