Monday, January 21, 2013

Mental Toughness

      I can see mile marker 18 in the distance. The sun is beating down on me and my legs are feeling heavier with every stride I take. How will I keep going and not quit? If I stop at mile 20 it will be OK because I just ran a PR at the Chicago Marathon 8 weeks ago. It will not matter.
      I started to walk just before mile 20. A woman on the bike who was leading the way said to me
 " You're not going to stop now are you? You are in the lead and will win this marathon. You have at least a four minute lead on the second woman."
      I was in my zone when I was running and I did not even realize I was the first woman. I had been running alone with no one around me for the last ten miles. Then it hit me, " Wow, I could really win this thing... win my first ever marathon. I can do this!"
      After about three minutes of walking I started to run again. The woman on the bike gave me a smile and continued to lead the way. I started to feel better and I saw 6:30 pace on my watch.
     The crowd started to thicken as I approached the finish. People were yelling and cheering for me. As I turned the corner I saw the finish line. I ran through the finishing tape. It was the best feeling ever and I was only a little over a minute off my Chicago PR. I did it!
      I am proud that I have never quit a race or walked off a course. In order to achieve our highest level we all must overcome the negative thoughts that try and take over when we are at our weakest. Preparing mentally before the race will allow you to fight back and achieve your goal.
      There has been a point in every race when I wanted to quit. From the 5k to the marathon I always have that moment when I felt I want to walk off the course or slow down. So how do I get through this rough spot? What works for me is focusing on my goal pace and remembering the times in my training I have successfully run that pace. I tell myself I have done this before and I believe in my training.

Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the 
body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always 
tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired. When you were 
younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired...You've always 
got to make the mind take over and keep going."

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be strong. 
You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy...It is not age; it is not diet. 
It is the will to succeed."

- Jacqueline Gareau, 1980 Boston Marathon champ


  1. The great baseball player Yogi Berra said, "90% of this game is half mental." When running a race, the the 90% needs no adjustment factor. I have found through the years that after all the careful prepartion I have made for acheiving a goal in a race, realizing that goal still comes down to, in the end, mental toughness. When I have suceeded in reaching (or even exceeding) my goal it was that I was able to mentally hang in there to the end and not quit or back off. Eric Liddell said it best in "Chariots of Fire": "And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within." Everyone has that inner mental toughness that will allow us to display the physical toughness to reach our goals. We just have to have the ability to find it and not let go of it.

  2. Great post, I thought I was the only one that had trouble pushing through at every distance!

    1. Thanks JayKay. I appreciate your feedback. Run strong :)