Running is mostly mental… or maybe that’s just me!

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Just a short and sweet post this week as I have 2 big weeks coming up and 2 race reports to write!

Running is 90% mental. Or 83%. I forget the actual percentage but I read it on the Interwebs so it must be true.

I think when you’re talking about shorter distances (and by ‘shorter’ I mean 5k, 10k, 12k – no disrespect to those distances!) the mental side is less prominent. 5k for example I would say is 99% physical. When I’ve struggled in a 5k it’s usually because I didn’t get enough sleep, went out too fast in the beginning,  or failed to warm up. Or a combination of all three.

Once you start to hit the longer distances, it’s not your legs or lungs that tend to give up… it’s your brain. The same part of your brain, I assume, that when the trainer says ‘just one more rep’ 10 damn times, always manages to keep going.

I’ve blogged before about my 2015 Clare Half Marathon experience. Sure, I paced it all wrong BUT my body was well and truly capable of finishing the race, albeit not in as good a time as I would have liked. It was my brain that wanted to quit.

In my marathon training, I never ran more than 36k. I think that’s pretty common in training programmes but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the dreaded ‘wall’ normally strikes at that point in the race. You start doubting yourself, asking yourself “What the hell was I thinking?” and (in the case of a first marathon) “Can I actually run 42.2km? I’ve never done it before!” And yet somehow you do it. The body may not know how to run 42.2k but the mind sure as hell does.

I have a few ultras in my near future… I may have mentioned that before. 56k in 2 weeks and 105k in 6 weeks. I have run all of the 56k course (albeit in 3 stages) and by the time the 105 hits, I will have covered MOST of that course too (missing only the 3rd of 5 training runs, next weekend when I run my 3rd City-Bay Fun Run – about as far removed from an ultra training run as you can get!).

I have run over 56k before – admittedly that was lap after lap of a fairly flat city track. But still… the distance holds no fear for me. I’m actually REALLY looking forward to it.

105k is another story altogether! Yesterday was training run 2 of 5. Training run 1, 4 weeks ago, was a less demanding section of the course, and I averaged 5:45 minutes per km. Yesterday was just over 7. The scenery was truly breathtaking. There was a lot more walking than last time, some tricky sections and a lot of ducking under overgrown branches. And we ran alongside a barbed wire fence for a lot of it, so that wasn’t going to do us much good if we needed some way to steady ourselves!

As we ran up the road to Checkpoint 2 (or what will be Checkpoint 2 in 5 weeks time), I definitely had some doubts. 105k is a Very. Long. Way! I was buggered after 18k, how was I going to do 105???

Plenty of people have done it before me. I absolutely have the physical ability to do it. It’s the mental side of the game, if anything, that will let me down!

I find distraction is a really good way to shut up that annoying little voice in my head that tries to tell me “You can’t!” Running with other people – particularly those that are a little fitter and faster, and have the ability to talk without you needing to contribute much to the conversation – is a good way to distract yourself from the various body parts telling you it’s time to give the game away. Running on beautiful trails can definitely be a good distraction but within reason – it’s not a great idea to let yourself get distracted on technical single track, particularly on the edge of a cliff! (STOP and admire the view, by all means. THEN keep running!) Then you have music/audiobooks etc which can be a great distraction if you’re running on your own – just make sure you can hear what’s going on around you!

How do YOU overcome mental barriers? I’m interested to hear!

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