It’s important but sometimes we don’t spend as much time working on it as we do the physical. I’m talking about the mental, the things we tell ourselves, the part that keeps us going when all we want to do is quit.
Yesterday my mental toughness was tested and quite frankly I almost failed (Yippee I didn’t but I was on the edge). As a part of my training it was one of my last long runs (the last one is next weekend) and this was supposed to be good. Well in my mind it was gonna be good. I had the nervous stomach (like a race), I had the restless legs that were aching to get out there, the route was planned out, my pit crew (Dave) was gonna ride along and entertain me as well as fuel me as I went. I also had the doubt that I could actually run 22 miles because it would be my longest distance since last year’s marathon. Sounds like it’s gonna be a rockstar kind of day!
So off we went to the local rail trail. Dave dropped me off to go run a few errands and we were gonna meet up about an hour into the run, which would be perfect because quite frankly biking along side someone is probably hard because I’m not going all that fast! 5 minutes after he left my mental toughness was tested. What I couldn’t see up ahead and around the corner was the fact the rail trail was still iced over. I was thinking “great, now what, I have run or do something for the next hour because although it is 50 degrees, I’m in shorts and Dave won’t be back for a while.” So I did what every crazy runner would do, I kept running, running and hoping that the ice would go away.
Well it went away for about a total of a mile but then it was patchy, slushy, and just overwhelmingly disheartening. I wanted to quit. In my mind when I saw the first two miles on my garmin in the 9’s I started beating myself up. “oh this is great, why are we doing this, is this really gonna help you train?” That is when it hit me, it’s gonna train you mentally! If you can get through this than you can get through the marathon because this is the area you need to work on right now. I’ve spent the last 8 months working on the physical and now as the date gets closer I really need to concentrate on the mental. The mental is what is going to get me across that finish line because physically I’m ready. So I reframed it and thought, okay hips and legs, let’s get the feeling for running for a long time! Guess what, it worked. Especially when I was ice skating for miles 5 and 6 and finally turned around knowing that biking this would be no fun for Dave.
I had to rethink how to get those miles 11 – 22 instead of a somewhat flat run I had to change my mentality to where I had been training on the hilly area that I could keep running to from the rail trail. So back to Devens I went! Nothing like taking on lots of hills after you have taken on the obstacle course of ice. I kept thinking, “you will be stronger for this.”
I’m proud to say that I pushed through the hills and the garmin times that didn’t get much better, but I did it. Physically it was a challenge, but mentally it was a moment of conquering something huge. I wanted to stop about 1000 times and could’ve with some great excuses, but I didn’t. Now I look at my times and I think, if I made it through those obstacles, how nice will be it be to be on a course where really the only obstacles will be other runners and maybe the weather. Because now I’m mentally stronger and I have this run to prove that I can overcome.
This mental toughness is something that can translate into our lives. My work is all mental, teaching others to change their thoughts into more optimistic future oriented thoughts, to strengthen and discover what they are made of and make the most of it. Build up their mental toughness! Mine is on track how about yours? How do you build your toughness? Do you need to or do you have a story of how yours was built?