Mental Toughness

I’ve come to learn over the last 10 years that running isn’t about physical as much as it’s about mental toughness. Run is 90% in your head, and the last 15% is mental.

There are certain times in my runs where I fall down on my mental toughness. Long runs on a hot day at 15 miles, my mind goes,

Screw this, just stop. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care when I finish. I don’t care. If I finish, I’m done running”.

After 10 years, I still haven’t figured out how to get past that point. 

Iron War

I just started rereading the book “Iron War” by Matt Fitzgerald. The book talks about the pain and suffering you have to endure in your endurance event.  At first, I was a little skeptical about this pain and suffering. But I’ve come to realize that I suffer from this exact phenomenon. At some point in the long run, when my body has said,

“it’s too hot, I don’t have enough energy, there are too many uphills. I’ve done too much in the beginning.” 

I just quit. I mentally turn off. I often look back at my races and see at some point, I’ve decided that I’m exhausted and tired and I can’t continue. But when I look at my splits, I realize that it’s two or three miles later that I have physically stopped or slowed down. At the time that I’d mentally tell myself, I can’t go on. I’m still at that same pace. 

In the book Iron War, they talk about the fact that you can push through these things and that by training, you train yourself to push through the harder times in your long runs. So my confession after 10 years is that I still struggle at times with my long runs, especially in heat and humidity. Both Mark Allen and David Scott purposefully went out in the heat and did their training runs. And they purposely put themselves in times of pain to help them mentally navigate through the times that their mind said, “I want to stop.”

Long Runs

Just two weeks ago. I did a long run in Montana. It was about 20% humidity. It started at 38 degrees, and I felt great to the end 20 miles. Last week, I did a long run, 24 miles. It was 60 degrees with a hundred percent humidity. As it got hotter, and as the day went on, I got hot and tired and sweaty, and by 16 miles, I was done and ready to give up. I never got my pace. I never got going. It took me 4 ½  hours to cover that 24 miles, where the week before, it took me 3 hours to cover 20 miles. I needed to do more of those long hot runs and figure out how can I put my body into those situations where it needs to work through it, and I can work through it mentally.

Conclusion

So what are my plans? The wonderful part about running today is that you can collect so much data. I have heart rate data for 19 of my last marathons. I can see what my heart was doing at what time in the race. Garmin also tells you the temperature, at least at the start, it may not know the ending, but you know, the start. I get a rough idea of what the weather was like at the time. I can go back and analyze when I fell apart, how hot it was, what was the humidity, and then moving forward in the future, and I can work on these types of training runs and working harder when it’s hotter and making sure that when I go out and run, I run in the heat.

Brent W. Peterson

Commerce running, talking geek

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