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?

6 Responses to “A Mental Game”

  1. Running in Mommyland February 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    You can do this and be faster than you ever thought! I realized over the past couple of weeks that comfortably speeding up during my shorter mid week runs has helped me speed up during the long ones. It’s been quite a nice surprise. Also, I have been living by the theory that if you don’t have any expectations, you can’t be disappointed. People think it’s a defeatist attitude, but I really think it’s helping my mental game during long runs. I just go out and do my best and it’s been so much better.

  2. becca February 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    I am struggling with the exact same thing right now! I don’t have great advice because I haven’t really figured it out either, but I recently took a week off of running and it really felt great. I’m working on not having expectations on how fast/far/etc I should be going, but that’s tough when you’re training for something.

  3. motivblogger February 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Be patient with yourself and don’t put too much pressure on your shoulders….
    Run with PLEASURE, not pressure.
    Speed will come naturally. Don’t over rush…

    I like the 2 last § of your post 🙂

  4. Lisa February 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    Great post. I’m sad for your feelings of discouragement, but I can assure you they’re normal. After a bad race, I often get home and question myself too. Why in the world do I spend my previous little free time on a hobby that doesn’t even involve family or friends? (I wish I could change that…) I’m just chasing PRs that don’t mean much in the scheme of things. But, I think God created everyone to have outlets, activities, & personal things they enjoy. God has made me healthy & strong w/ 2 good legs to run, and I’m going to own it and use them. 🙂 I know running is certainly not the most important thing, but a good run in crisp, beautiful weather where I feel strong is just an awesome sensation. I guess that’s why I run, and why many of us do I think. You CAN do this marathon.

  5. Heidi Nicole February 17, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Running is SO mental! Seriously, very, very mental! When I’m struggling with running it is usually because of the mental battle I’m having with myself. And really, it always helps to just take a step back and decide why you are running – hopefully for fun. When it isn’t fun anymore it helps to ditch the watch and literally head out for fun.

    Good luck with the training and have fun becoming a marathoner!


  1. Living in the moment, trusting, thanking. « - February 21, 2012

    […] things I wanted to accomplish, and overwhelmed by the things I hadn’t even started. Just like with running, negative thoughts were my companion then […]

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