One thing my running partner and I have talked a lot about is why do some people/runners have that dig down deep, no pain no gain, mental preparedness and others don’t, or is it that they won’t? I’m not 100% sure but our conversations have certainly gone round and round about this one!
Let me start by saying that I am no authority by any means, like everyone else, I bring my life experiences to the table as well as what I’ve read, studied and learned along the way. I’d like to think that I do possess mental preparedness, sometimes, and most of the time I think I am mentally tougher than my physical strength will allow. (Which I am really committed to working on as one of my goals for this year!) I was raised by a “No Pain, No Gain” father and learned to suck it up at a very young age. As we all have a few scars from our upbringing this is something that I really struggled with at different times. It wasn’t until I started running and going the distance that I turned those feelings of resentment into gratitude! I had what it took – that dig down deep, overcome the obstacles and get across the finish line! For that I will always be thankful!
The human body is capable of incredible things, but a strong body will never reach its full potential when its attached to a weak mind. On the other hand if a weaker body is attached to a strong or tough mind the body will continue to grow stronger. Just as we train physically, I believe we can train the brain to gain some mental preparedness as well.
So first off lets talk about the weather. I know safety is very important but are you a fair weather runner and I’m not talking severe conditions that no one should be out in. Do you hug the covers if the temps fall below average? Do you roll over if its raining? What about warmer than usual temps and humid? Honestly, I can raise my hand to all of those at different times. But if you get up and get out in less than perfect conditions and come back in soaked or wind blown you start to feel a little bit like a bad ass and that goes a long way in building mental toughness! One season, myself and a couple of ladies I run with decided to run through every tropical storm which is why we are hanging on to a tree for this picture! It was actually a great time but we felt tough! To quote my running partner, “there is no bad running weather, just poorly selected clothing”! If its raining – wear a hat, if its freezing – bundle up and if its hot – hydrate!
Another thing that might help in developing mental preparedness is to find your own trigger. That one thing that is so important to you or means so much that you would survive anything for! My whole family has always been my source of strength but my trigger is my granddaughter. When I completed my last cancer treatment the center had a big send off as they do for all of their unsuspecting victims. They make it a big thing complete with a certificate and standing ovation as you exit down the hallway one last time. As I said my goodbyes and turned to leave I noticed a small beautiful child standing near the elevator waiting for me – my granddaughter. My sweet family surprised me with a visit but what they don’t know is that image of her standing there waiting for me gets me across finish line after finish line. So if I hit a tough spot at a race or even just a training run I visualize that scene in my mind. I would survive or endure anything her.
One more thing that I feel could add to our mental preparedness is situational awareness. After all knowledge is power and if we are aware of what is going on around us and prepared for the situation we will not be as apt to become overwhelmed which will work to weaken our mental state. Just a couple of examples of how this can be applied to running is if your running in a neighborhood that has a dog that always chases you, be aware and ready with some sort of non harmful defense, or if you are running in a less than favorable area or alone carry mace. If you are planning to run a race be sure to read the fine print (another one of my goals for the year)! Also, be prepared if the course doesn’t offer as many water/aid stations as you train with take your hydration belt. Know the course, do you need to save energy for a particular area that has a lot of elevation or is there an area that is a little more isolated and you’ll need some upbeat music to get you through it! The more we know – the more mentally prepared we can and will be!
No matter how well we prepare there will always be times when you get thrown a curve ball. The last race I participated in is a perfect example. I was prepared, read the fine print, felt great and ready to roll! Unfortunately, while “walking” to the start line I fell in the city’s largest pot hole and rolled my ankle, scraped both of my knees and elbows. I mean really? It was ridiculous! That moment the gun went off I had to rely solely on that dig down deep I learned from my father. I took off and within a few miles I had forgotten I was bleeding and was fully immersed in that euphoric state of bliss that keeps runners coming back time and time again. Thanks Dad.
Johnna Terragna – RunCRP