The run itself is usually a test of not only my physical stamina, but also my mental capacity to psych myself into the finish. The easier runs (for me that’s 2-4 miles at about a 11:30 pace) have become so much of a habit that they fly by with my mind covering everything that happened or needs to happen over the course of the day. I don’t have to work so hard inside my head to get through them (anymore). It takes a while for you to learn that as hard as running is physically, the real challenge is fighting that part of your conscience that tells you you’re done, you’ve done enough already, stop, it’s too hard, you can’t do it. This is the quote that helped me identify the real struggle.
“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan
After considering this for a few runs, I started to separate the run into the physical and the mental. While hitting the long runs in training for my first half, I would hit the distance and then assess how I physically felt. Did I have another mile? Another half mile? I used my brain to push my body just a little harder – just to see if I could do it. This got me through my first 1/2 training in the beastly days of late summer in the South. The mental practice of pushing through one more small segment helped me to develop that fortitude that bears the brunt of the pain, sweat, bugs, traffic, more sweat, stinky smells of garbage set-out-too-soon, more bugs, metallic-taste-in-your-mouth, and other headwinds of the run.
Some days that little voice will win. I’ll pull off the running shoes before I’ve even tied them. I’ll change into my pajamas and sit on the couch to knit instead of going for my scheduled run. But those days are getting farther apart for me as I learn to tell that little voice inside me that QUITTERS NEVER WIN. I also try to drown out her whining with little bits of inspiration like these: