Last year I participated in a half marathon as well as a couple of triathlons. This year, I plan to train for my first full marathon.
In fact, training has already begun, and I should be out running right now in light of that fact.
(How to balance blogging with marathon training will be a post for another day).
My Teenage Dream for my Forty-Year Old Self
I am not a “natural” runner. Since I was young, running always was best when it was in short, fast bursts. Long distances were out of the question. When I started running again about six years ago, I had to train myself from about a quarter of a mile–that was all the further I could run. But the list I wrote to my forty-year old self when I was seventeen, was that I would complete a marathon. Although I’m not forty yet, and I haven’t opened that letter, I still remember this one item in my list because it has always been at the forefront of my mind since I was a teenager.
Unexpected Benefits from Training Hard
When I wrote that item on my list as a teenager, I didn’t know what running would do for me, since I had never run further than two miles at that time. But I like long distance running because I like what it does for me–and it’s something I never expected. What is it?
Training for a marathon, or just a long distance run, creates a mentality in you that comes out in your everyday life, with the problems you face everyday. I call it a marathon mentality. The thing with running long distance is that so much of it comes down to the mind. If you can convince yourself that you can do it, chances are, you are going to do it (minus any physical ailments that might pop up along the way).
When I am running, and I think I have nothing left in me, but there are still two miles to go, I start employing mental tactics to keep myself going. These are the tactics I employ, although they are not necessarily in any specific order. I employ whichever one seems to be the best at the time of running. I am also including a bit about how this spills over into my thinking in everyday life.
Tactic Number One: Just Go a Little Further
I tell myself to just go a little further. Whether that is rated by time (just run 5 more minutes) or distance (just run to the end of this street), it doesn’t matter. If you tell yourself you will run just a little further, then usually you will. When you get to the “further” spot, then you tell yourself, “that wasn’t so bad and now you only have x amount to go so you might as well go the rest of the way.”
In our lives, there are things we need to do that seem to be neverending. Those projects at work that seem to go on and on and on, the housework that seems never to get done. I know I do this with blogging: is there a little more I can do today to make my blog a little better? I tell myself in life to just go a little further, do it a little longer.
Tactic Number Two: Focus
This is where you choose some spot ahead of you and you focus on it with steadfast, steely eyes (insert growl here). You do not allow yourself to think about anything else except the thing you have chosen to focus on. When you reach that spot, you fix your eyes on the next thing ahead of you and refocus.
I’ve heard of tunnel vision–how if you have a goal in front of you, and you focus only on that goal, you are sure to reach it. Using this tunnel vision for running and life really works, and it works in short increments and in long increments. A short increment is the focus I was talking about when I am in the very act of running–like focusing on the lamp post a hundred yards from me. Long increments are when you focus on a much bigger goal–for me (last year), the half marathon itself was the much bigger goal. This type of focus means you have to set aside more things in your life in order to focus on it.
Tactice Number Three: Sustenance
When you are running long distance, you should always have water with you, or planted strategically along your route. This works for me, especially, when I have it planted strategically along my route. I can think to myself that I must run one more mile to get to that water. And I might as well run it because I will get there faster.
For marathon mentality for life, this is where whitespace comes in. Do you have a goal that you have been shooting for, but you are starting to feel a little tuckered out about it? Take a short reprieve from it, get some much needed sustenance, whether that sustenance is spiritual, mental, physical or something else, but then keep on going. Have your “sustenance” or your whitespace spaced out ahead of you, so that you have to work for it to get it.
What is Your Challenge?
These are just three tactics I have used while running long distances, in order to keep stretching myself to run further, to be able to endure more of that distance. When I am working out like this, I notice so much how the marathon mentality spills over into my everyday life, and I have strength and emotional stamina to keep going. To endure. When I am not working out like this, I notice how my spirit seems to wither and I am more apt to quit things, or just give up.
Do you have some kind of activity that you do where the doing of it helps you in your everyday life? If you don’t, I highly recommend finding something that you care about, whether it’s an art project, a spiritual goal, a physical goal, or whatever, and working hard on that thing UNTIL YOU FINISH IT. Challenge yourself to do something that you think is really hard to do, and then go for it. Do a little bit each day or each week, but don’t give up on it. Employ some of these tactics to keep you moving, and watch while your marathon mentality starts to spill over into the rest of your life, giving you endurance to complete things and to have the patience to get through things that were so hard to get through before.