Monday, May 14, 2012

My Body Ran 13.1 Miles, But My Mind Went Much Farther

This summer as I push through long runs in the summer heat, I won't be focusing physical distances the way I used to when I ran.  Instead, I'll be trying to track the mental distances covered by my mind.  Boredom is nothing more than the weakness of an untrained mind. It took me a long time to understand that concept.  I am sure that people have been trying to teach me some variation of that idea for most of my life.  But, I never really got it until I found running.  I often hear non-runner say that they get bored when they run, or ask me what I think about when I run.  And, honestly, boredom was one of the major reasons why I didn't like running when I was younger.  It is also one of the reasons why I have avoided running on tracks for the most part.  However, The Half Marathons that I ran in Miami and Pittsburgh have given me a much deeper understanding of the mental rigors of running.

Miami broke me.  By mile 11 I was mentally crushed and had a miserable race.  Pittsburgh's hills forced me to walk, but they couldn't break me mentally, I rallied, recovered, and finished the race on my terms, and turned in my second best time for the distance.  Following the race, however, I've struggled more mentally with irritability, part of this is due to the long drive both before and after the race, but the simple fact is my mind worked harder than my body.  I could easily draw a map of which streets that I went down during either of those races that would be reasonably accurate.  But, if I was asked to give you a road map of my thoughts it would impossible.  Even if I focused upon on the major topics, the undertaking would be Herculean.  Also, the results would be just random and weird, delving into my past, present, and future with little regard for linear order or completeness of thought. If  transcribed and read aloud to an audience of people free of context, I am sure my thoughts would sound like the pep talk of some self-loathing maniac, who has a near pathological hatred of the Pittsburgh Steelers and hills (actually that's not too far from the truth).  From moment to moment, my mind was able to search out for the tools that it need to hold my body together and keep me moving despite  all the physical signals being sent by my muscles that I should stop, lay down, vomit, and cry. 

In the past, my mind wasn't strong enough to move beyond the present and draw strength from other areas to fuel my runs.  My mind's lack of training or weakness came across most often as boredom mainly because I wasn't running distances that push me to where my body was sending physical reasons to stop. So, my mind would throw in the towel by sending signals of boredom.  At first I, like many new runners, drew strength from music, but as I have progressed as a runner and my mind has gotten stronger, I've shed my dependence on music and run with it only when I really want to listen to music.  Personally, I used to fear the physical distance I would need to travel to reach 26.2 for the first time, but after Miami and Pittsburgh, I realize that physically my body could carry me that distance today if needed.  I would not collapse from the physical strain of the distance.  However, my mental preparation and training is not where it needs to be in order to cover that distance.  I wouldn't feel the old boredom that plagued my early running efforts, but I know that my mind is not conditioned for 26.2.  Once, I have marked off my last race of the spring, getting my mind in shape for 26.2 becomes my new running focus.  I am not picking out a specific race or giving myself a timeline, but I am moving with a purpose.  Right now, that's enough.          


  1. It's often said that the marathon is 10% physical and 90% mental and after two marathons, I can confirm this statement. Working on the mental aspect will be the hardest part of the training, but I have faith in you. You WILL do this.