I am confident now that this is how most people start their relationship with running. Are you telling me that you went out for the first time, ran for thirty minutes and enjoyed it so much you went out running again every day that week? If so, you might be some sort of superhuman athlete and should probably sign yourself over for scientific analysis. Running for me was a long, hard, arduous labour which was peppered with moments of elation and long boring periods of burning sensations and clicking knees.
After my brief stint of running a few blocks I resigned myself to the fact that running just wasn’t for me. I took up long distance walking, went on long hikes and even walked a marathon. Then I joined a gym and started lifting weights, doing cardio and losing weight. After 6 months of enjoying my new found love for fitness, I was getting twitchy, craving something new. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little runner was hobbling along, shouting for attention, saying “Remember me?”
My parents have been keen runners over the years, and it was my mum who suggested running a 10k as she had done it before but was looking to get back into it again. I say this to anyone interested in running or getting fit; sign up for a race! I can guarantee I would never have ran 6 miles if it wasn’t in training for that event. I rarely go to the gym unless I am booked in for a fitness class, and I don’t run unless I’m training for something. Its how my mind works; I need some pressure applied (lightly!) to force me into working harder. It might not work for you, but I would be surprised if it didn’t help at least a little.
After the 10k came my next mission. to do a half marathon 6 months later. I signed up for the race on the very day I completed the 10k, knowing that my ‘runner’s high’ would quickly disappear along with my chances of taking up the challenge. As a perpetual thinker, I spent days and weeks planning my next run. Considering the best outfit, weather conditions, playlist and routes in my head before resigning myself to another night on the sofa or a session at the gym. Without a waterproof jacket I wouldn’t consider running in the rain, and as an unusually hot Scottish summer crept in the midday hours were out of the question. My mum wasn’t up to the longer distance so I had no training buddy, no accountability, no pre-planned running dates to stick to and I was thinking my way out of the whole thing.
One day I read about running mantras, and realised that they were common place in the world of sport. A short, inspirational line designed to ring in your head in times of need sounded too good to be true. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I was probably too busy not running…
I scanned over a few articles and felt inspired when I finally got into my 12 week training plan for the half marathon. Looking back, there was never a long run when I didn’t use a running mantra. I was constantly giving myself motivational talks in my own head. Half of the time it wasn’t even intentional. There was just a moment in time when I realised that the only thing telling me to stop running was my mind, not my body, but my mind. Basically, learning to be a good runner is really about learning to ignore that voice in your head which is screaming “STOP!” the whole time.
On the day I ran 10 miles I remember struggling after the first mile, and telling myself “This is the day you will run 10 miles” and it was. The day I ran the half marathon I kept telling myself “This is the last time you ever have to run” and that really got me through. I have taken a long break from running because it took its toll on my knees, but I would encourage anyone to give it a go, never mind your fitness levels, just get mentally prepared!
Has running changed the way you focus your mind?