Devoted to distance

How to be a long distance disciple

You have to be at least a little bit crazy to be a long distance runner. Hear me out.

Not everyone ‘gets’ running 26.2 miles. Not everyone wants to enter that hurt locker of racing a flat-out 5k or venture out in sub-zero conditions to get that next endorphin hit.

That’s where we runners differ. We’re a bit extreme like that. We like nothing better than pushing ourselves to the limits – seeing just what our bodies are capable of and testing the boundaries between being a crazy runner and being an all-out masochist.

Some runners fail to connect the power of the mind in distance running though.

Sure, you need to train and condition your body to be able to physically run long distances and physically cope with the intensity you’re putting your lungs and legs through, but what about the mental capacity to manage all that?

I confess to being a complete running addict. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know where to draw the line and take a rest day if I’m injured or burnt out.

I’ve talked about the addictive persona and characteristics of runners in general on my running channel over here but in a nutshell, here are the mental mantras I repeat again and again to get me through tough training and racing periods:

  1. Remember quality over quantity – there’s no point repeating the same route or session every day at the same pace, in time you will eventually progress but it will take so long to get there you’re likely to have lost interest or burnt out before you reach the end goal. Aim for a variety of routes and sessions with a variety of paces and don’t beat yourself up – ever.
  2. Stay true to yourself – whatever kind of running you enjoy – trail, track, mountain, on road, off-road, 5k or ultra, do what YOU love and never be swayed by other people’s opinion. It’s fine to try out new things but ultimately, you will only continue to do something which brings you satisfaction so stay true to your instincts and follow your passions.
  3. Have perspective – if you start feeling negative, whether training or racing or just about your progress in general, think about how far you have come and what you have achieved so far. A lot of people in life don’t ever run – let alone challenge themselves so respect yourself and embrace each new opportunity.
  4. Talk it out – sometimes it just helps to have a word with yourself. Whether you’re running up a horrendously steep hill and feel like you’ve nothing more to give or have dropped a few places in a race, remind yourself that you’re still in the game and the only thing holding you back is your mind.
  5. View things differently – this is really tough but it’s a good one. It’s actually a mindfulness technique and the idea is to view the situation from high above – as though you were in a plane or a bird. If you were looking down on the situation, what would you be thinking? Would it change your outlook on things? How? Why? Can you then apply that to improving how you’re feeling?

My yoga teacher has a nice phrase that he repeats at the end of sessions when we’re all lying down in the dark (less strange that it sounds).

He says ‘you’re aware of who you are – and you’re aware of where you are – and it’s by having this awareness that you’re able to appreciate others and be comfortable with yourself and the world around you’ or something to that end.

I’ll just leave that with you…