Archive | 12:37 pm

A Mental Game

16 Feb

I have to admit that the humbling experience of last Sunday’s race has sort of taken the wind out of my sails. It’s not surprising I guess. Just like I can have a runner’s high for the week after I blow my race expectations out of the water, I can also have a runner’s low for a week after failing yet another half marathon PR attempt (and getting my butt kicked in the process).

Travis and I are registered for the Snowman Stampede 5 mile race this Saturday. Part of me is hoping for redemption. Flat course and temp in the low 30s? You’ve got this. Part of me doesn’t even care. I’m slow. I suck. So be it.

After we busted out 2 miles on Tuesday night in 19:57 (say what?), Travis told me that he thinks my problem is mental. I am able to run faster than I give myself credit for.

I agree that running is a mental sport. You don’t come by a PR easily – you have to fight, dig deep, lay it on the line, and cry tears of simultaneous joy and pain. And in those last miles of a tough race,  my mental state often gets the best of me. I have loads of negative thoughts running through my head:

I can’t do this.

This is too hard.

It doesn’t matter anyway.

Why the f*** am I doing this? 

During the race on Sunday, I was battling those thoughts from the start line.

It’s too cold.

I can’t breathe.

My legs won’t move!

I have 13 miles to go?!?!

Even during my run with Travis on Tuesday, I was holding myself back with negative thoughts.

I can’t run this fast.

My legs are going to wear out.

I’m going to burn out after a mile.

According to iMapMyRun though, I ran the first mile in 10:09 and the second mile in 9:48.

Which makes me tempted to say that Travis is right – I can run faster than I think. But I have to say, after years of being disappointed by my running pace and missing race goals left and right, I allow myself to ask the lurking question I haven’t wanted to acknowledge – Why do I spend so much time on a sport that I’m bad at? Why do I have a hobby that makes me frequently feel insufficient and incompetent?

As I’m staring down this goal of a marathon, and preparing to start training for real next week, I feel scared. Unsure. Do I really want to do this? I’d be lying if I said I just wanted to finish. I want to reach a goal. I want a time I can feel good about, even if only in my own eyes.

There are days when I can graciously accept that I just was not created to be fast. Then there are other days when it makes me frustrated. Discouraged. And I question why I do this in the first place.

I think every runner, no matter how fast or slow, gets to this place. The place where pace, cadence, distance, races, and goals fall flat and you have to go back to square one: reminding yourself why you run. Most runners I know don’t run because they love winning. Or because they love beating other people. They run because they love it, pure and simple.

So that’s where I am. Reminding myself that I run for the love of it. No matter how slow I go, no matter how much I walk, no matter how many minutes tick by past my goal, no matter how “poor” of a runner I feel like, I’m out there because I love running.

Why do you run?