Another Thinking Out Loud Thursday – linking up with Amanda at Running with Spoons.
I’m sure most of you who have had an injury you can relate to – that moment you feel something different close to your injured spot. You get that feeling of dread – oh no, the injury is back. When I was competing in track during high school, I never really had a traumatic injury. The only thing that happened to me was a pulled hamstring (a result of a stupid move in dodgeball), shin splints (probably my own fault from lack of stretching) and the one time a hurdle came back and slapped me in the leg (I still have a dent in my muscle/tendon). It wasn’t until my stress fracture in 2014 that I really had an injury. The stress fracture sucked, but I healed rather quickly. I started marathon training a number of weeks later and every time I felt even the smallest of pains, I would freak out a little. During the taper process, I was convinced I had another stress fracture. Nothing bad happened during that marathon cycle and I completed it without injury.
The next injury, whatever happened to my post-tib muscle/tendon is a different story. It came on suddenly and comes back every once in awhile, usually when I’m stupid and wear shoes that don’t agree with my post tib tendon. So far, everything seems ok and I hope it stays that way. I’m not sure why I keep feeling that my tendon is just going to snap off, but those feelings come back to me often. I’ve had testing done and everything comes up clear. But why do I still worry about it?
A few of us have been talking about training for the mental side of running. We focus on the physical side of running: tempo runs, getting to 20 miles, making sure to warm up/cool down – but what do we do for the mental game we will play on the big day? Or the mental game on those really, long, long long runs.
What have I done?
Boring-Boring long runs: My long runs are usually unexciting and quite boring. I run without music for most of them, without people and usually on routes that I’ve run a million times before. My 20 miler for NYC was run using a 5KM loop in a provincial park – nothing but road and trees. I ran for almost 4 hours with no music, no talking and fortunately, no bears. This made running NYC a real treat. One of the best things about the NYC marathon is that the streets are lined with spectators for almost the entire race (everything except the bridges). I didn’t even need to listen to music – the crowds were that loud. That 20 miler was a bit brutal, but it definitely made me tougher.
Head to the Gym: The other day, I wasn’t feeling like my leg or my GI system would cooperate. So rather than head outside, I went to GoodLife and ran on the treadmill there. Knowing that I could hop off the treadmill at any point and just move to cross training helps keep my mind at easy. If my GI system isn’t have the best of days – knowing there is a bathroom nearby also helps. Spoiler Alert – nothing bad happened and I had a great 5KM run. I utilize the treadmill time for super rainy days, cold days, ice days or days where I’m not feeling 100%. I’m very thankful to have access to that treadmill on some days! Cross training has also been beneficial. I’ve become used to the bike!
Talk to other runners: I may run alone 95% of the time, but I never really feel alone. I’ve made so many friends over the past four years. Whether it is being part of a social media crew, this blog or just general life, I’ve really enjoyed meeting so many runners. It is rare these days that I go to a race and don’t know at least one period. I’m a little excited for the Mississauga 1/2 marathon since I know a few of you will be there (or in Toronto for the GoodLife Toronto Marathon!). Ottawa Race Weekend is even more fun! I enjoy talking with other runners and sometimes when the going gets tough, having a discussion about whatever is bugging you helps.
Reminders, motivational quotes, mantras: Sometimes you will need to remind yourself that you will make it to the finish. For first time marathoners, that distance will seem daunting, especially when you only go to about 20 miles in training. Figure out what you need to say to yourself and say it 1000x. I have to remind myself that I can do hard things and that if I can play a soccer game from beginning to end with only the half-time break, compete in an adventure race and run on tired legs that yes, I can indeed complete a marathon. Some runners have written lists of people who they are thinking of for every mile, while some have motivational sayings on their arms/shoes. Whatever you need to do, do it.
Treats: Sometimes that after workout treat is what will keep you going. I’m not going to lie, I’m heading street for the beer tent after the Ottawa Marathon. I will be on a “beer ban” for a couple of weeks before the marathon, so I will keep thinking about that wonderful beverage at the finish line. Beer not your thing? So many other treats that could be had: lattes, ice cream, burgers, M&M’s, smoothie- whatever!
The mental game can be a tough one, but it is something that needs to be considered when training for the bigger races. I remember when I first started running, that the idea of running a 5K non-stop seemed impossible. It took me about 4 races to finally run 5K non-stop. Once I ran 5K non stop, I was able to finally go sub-30. Then, a few years later, sub-25. But that first 5K in 2010, I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to run 5K in less than 40 minutes and *omg* what if I didn’t finish. I also remember the time I said “I am never running a marathon! EVER!”. Right….