Tomorrow brings the longest run I’ve ever attempted, 31 miles of trail and road, which should have been about 1500–2000 metres of vertical climb. Quite a challenge both physically and mentally I’m sure you’ll agree!
Getting your head in to the right space is a much larger challenge than I had originally thought. I’ve heard many other runners say “at least half the battle is mental preparation”.
I believe in this comment; it really is a mental battle from the moment you decide to run whatever distance, until the moment you complete the challenge. In your head, you will doubt yourself, nagging thoughts will appear from nowhere but you must overcome these doubts and tell yourself you can do it. Your body's natural reaction to protect it, you have to find the switch which turns off this automated shutdown procedure.
What I haven’t done and I now realise I need to do, is add this mental processes in to my training programme. I spend so much time working on training my physical capabilities but very little time working on my mental thought processes. This was brought home when listening to Stuart Mills’s recent talk at the TORQ London assessment day. Why do we ignore something that impacts our running so much when training?
I wrote this entry last Friday 5th April, today is Saturday 13th April and I never got around to posting it to the site. On Saturday I attempted my longest ever run and I failed. I failed to hit the targeted number of miles. I ran 22.5 miles of the planned route of 31 miles with about 1200m of vertical assent rather than the 2000m it should have been.
I hate failing! Actually I don’t think anybody likes failing but this really hurt my confidence, in my head I was asking myself how I planned to run 50 miles if I can’t get to the 31 miles. I consoled myself with the promise of getting out for 9–10 miles first thing Sunday morning, which I did, although it was hard going it did help.
When you fall off your bike, the best thing you can do is get back on right?
Monday was a rest day and I hatched a plan to re-attack the 30 mile marker on Wednesday morning, getting out early on the road rather than the trail. I stepped foot outside around 6am and just under 5 hours later (4.49) I returned with a big smile on my face and two fairly tired & sore legs. Mission accomplished, my longest run to date completed and I was on top of the world.
As I finalise this blog post a few days later on a cold & windy day in Boston, my wife preparing for her first ever marathon on Monday, I know that the battle is more about what’s going on in your head than it is with your legs. You’ve got to be fit to run the distance but what I hadn’t appreciated was the level of fitness is more mental than it is physical.