As an RRCA certified run coach, I operate and train my athletes based on the “two mile rule.” Especially during long runs, +/- two miles probably won’t make a difference during training. Granted, you wouldn’t want to get into the habit of shaving off two miles from every long run, BUT – if it’s a tough you’re supposed to do 12, get a leg cramp, and have to call it quits at 10 – no big deal. We can render that the week after.
So, when I went from 13 miles to 14, I didn’t expect a ton of difficulty. Totally wrong.
When I went from 14 to 15, though, it was like a jaunt through the park that I’d done many times before.
When I spoke to my good friend from Instagram, Jeph, he agreed that 14 miles was tougher than 15 miles when he was training for his first marathon. I was a bit surprised it wasn’t just me. Of course, I started thinking about why this could be the case, and I believe most of it is mental.
Think about it: The half marathon distance is farthest most of us run before tackling the full marathon. So many of us have spent the bulk of our running career training for half marathons. In marathon training, that end-goal becomes just another number. Just another long run. Just another link in the chain that leads to a full 26.2 miles.
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When I ran 13 miles as a training run (yes, I left out the .1…sue me), I felt weirdly dissatisfied after I jumped off the treadmill. Part of me was used to crossing a finish line right around that distance, and now, I just spent the last 2+ hours staring at the same spot in the wall and filling in my VDOT training log like it was no big deal. It was surreal.
The week after, I was set for 14 miles, and it was a rough run for me. Leg cramps caused me to start walking and stopping and stretching right around mile 12 – 12.5 There were factors that could have easily attributed to these issues: New shoes, more hills than usual, colder weather than usual…
…but honestly, most if it was probably mental. When I ran 15 miles this past weekend, it was a breeze. And by breeze I mean I was able to maintain a positive mindset and I didn’t have any of those pains that I had when I ran 14 miles the weekend before.
So, what were the thoughts that may have interfered with my mental game?
For starters, I was shaky on the outcome of success. Instead of propelling forward with the mindset of, “I can do this…,” I kept thinking, “am I going to make it? Can I run this far? I’ve never run this far. Can I do it?” That shizz will mess with you, no doubt.
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In turn, this made me hyper-sensitive to any tiny pain or cramp. Let’s face it: Running hurts. It makes you sore. Sometimes if you stop, you’re the Tinman when it’s time to pick it back up again. No one ever said it was easy, pain free, or always fun. When your mind is focused on how you may not be able to finish the miles, you’ll run the risk of 1) phantom pains; or 2) pains that are really there, but are magnified because you’re making them that way.
There have been times, friends, when I was mentally able to stop something from hurting. I’m not saying that physical pain is “fake” and that we can control an injury with our mind. What I am saying, though, is that those times when you’re afraid to keep going and suddenly you get a pain in your calf, that could easily be a mental thing. Note: You can read more about this in a book by my friend’s dad: The Great Pain Deception by Steven Ray Ozanich.
After I ran 14, I was SO confident that I made it past my typical goal distance of 13.1 and I had no problem mentally preparing for, and carrying out, a full, consecutive 15 miles. I knew I could do it, and my mental game was on point. This is why it’s so important to push yourself through the toughest runs. When the next tough run comes along, your response will be to keep going.
You can do it – just like I did! #ONWARD
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