Just typing the title of this post makes me nervous. My training for this race has been a little "less" this cycle than I can remember in recent years. There are a few reasons for this - first, I am working under the guidance of a coach, not coaching myself, and second, the goal is to not repeat the mistake I made last fall of showing up in Indy a little overdone in terms of training. I recently read an article about peaking in your fitness level too soon, and I'm pretty confident that is what happened in 2016. I have adopted a way of thinking that it's better to show up a little under prepared than over trained. A slight gap between your fitness level and your race goal can easily be bridged with a strong mental game. I'm sure you've heard the saying that the marathon is 90% mental. This is my weakness - my mental game. And I need to fix it fast.
As I've mentioned before, I don't love racing. I love running. Races tend to cause unnecessary stress, and who needs that? I would love to get to a place where I see them as a fun challenge. When I look back at my past marathons, the ones I have enjoyed the most were the ones without a hard and fast goal. Even the Boston Marathon this past spring turned into one of those races when the temperatures soared. I threw my expectations out the window and ended up surprising myself with how strong I ran. It was a blast! So over the next 10 weeks, I need to learn how to view Indy with that same positivity in spite of having a big goal, because I really, really want to break three hours in the marathon. It may not happen in 10 weeks, but I do feel it can happen in the near future.
I been listening to a lot of podcasts lately profiling runners similar to myself who have broken the three hour barrier and each time I reflect on what must be different between myself and that sub 3 runner. On the surface, their training, diet, and overall lifestyle seem pretty comparable to mine. Many of them started out as four hour or more marathoners (I finished my first marathon in 3:31), and steadily worked their way down. If they can do it, why can't I?? What is holding me back?? It's my self-doubt. Everyone in my life is so supportive of my goal and has no doubt I can run a marathon faster than three hours, but if it's going to happen, I have to truly believe it, too, and not let doubt creep in. I like to think of myself as a pretty mentally strong person - I have successfully conquered anorexia, infertility, and am the mother of a child with special needs. These battles are not for the weak! I need to transfer this same determination over to my running.
After I realized what was lacking, I shifted my focus to implementing strategies that will help me reach my goal. I've recently read two books, pictured below, that have given me some great tools. This is what I have in my arsenal so far:
- Stay present. This means focusing on one mile at a time. Not worrying about what's going to happen five or ten miles from now.
- Acknowledge negative thoughts and let them go. The letting go is the hard part for me. Marathons are long, and if you have completed one, you know there are many ups and downs in that time frame. When I hit a rough patch, I need to embrace it and not dwell on whatever is plaguing me. It will soon pass. Didn't hit my pace for a particular mile? Let it go and focus on the mile ahead.
- Have a list of positive statements. This is where I pull out my inner Stuart Smalley. "Smooth and relaxed", and "I can do hard things" have worked well for me in the past. I recently listened to an interview with a 2:43 marathoner who stated she chants her goal pace over and over.
I am running a half marathon next month that I will use as a dress rehearsal for practicing my new strategies. It's going to take time to change my ways but now that I've realized the difference it could make, I already feel less stressed.
As always, I love hearing from my friends who take the time to read what I write. How do YOU stay positive when the going gets rough?