Let the training begin! It was our first warmish spring day and I decided to venture out for a run. The Black Keys were jamming on my iPod and I was ready to show this run how it’s done. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of the warmer weather, or the fact that my marathon-running neighbor was outside watching my start, but I went out way too fast and by the time I rounded the second block I was about out of steam. This was not exactly the confidence booster I needed to begin training.
Conquering the Mental Mountains
Running distance as an adult is mostly a mental game. The thousands of people running with you on race day do not care about your time, or even if you finish. You are the one who is accountable for your run. You can be your best ally or your worst opponent mentally. The outcomes of many of my runs have been determined before I even left my driveway. So, today I’m going to give you some tips to make it over the mental mountains involved in running distance.
Breaking Down the Race
For me it helps to break the run down into sections. I learned this in high school while running the half-mile in track. I would get so frustrated because at competitions there were two girls I could never beat. I would be neck-and-neck with them and then at the end they would blow me away. Finally one day my coach taped a race to show me the secret. He told me that I needed to stop racing for the finish line. He taught me to break my race down into 100- and 200-meter segments and run them very specifically. He showed me that the girls I raced against would even fall behind me after the 300-meter mark because they would give themselves a break so they could put everything into their last stretch.
I’ve applied this logic to my training. If I run and only think about the last stretch, I’m not being mentally present to realize how I am running right now. Three miles may as well be 100 miles if I’m not mentally open to running this race. This is why I start training in small intervals.
My first few days I set out to run/walk one mile. I can allow myself to walk, but I try to run at least three-quarters of the distance. Each week I increase it gradually in either distance or time. By the time the race comes I make sure that I can run 30 minutes or 3 miles at a nice jog without needing to stop. The day of the race I also cut the distance down. I run the first mile harder because of the adrenaline from the crowd and the other runners (there will be people at each mile marker, so you will know how much you have left). I alternate between easier and faster half-miles until I get to the last half-mile when I pour it on for a strong finish. Knowing I get to run a little slower for a half-mile sometimes is mentally what I need to be able to go the distance.
This training may not work for you, but the point is to find something that does. Running distance involves removing our mental handicap of thinking we can’t do it. Things are only impossible if you tell yourself they are. Breaking my run into smaller, more manageable sections made me a better runner, both in my former track days and now for my 5K runs. I hope it will work for you, too. Happy training!