Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mind Over Matter

Sometimes we all find it hard to get out of the door and into our stride. Motivation is often lacking in runners, usually in the winter during the base phase when we're clocking big miles, running twice a day and generally feeling constantly tired.

I remember earlier in the year when I was running over 100 miles (160km) a week, grinding it out day after day, but thankfully every evening I would meet up with the squad and train with the guys and girls, distracting myself from the fatigue. I found that hitting big miles was actually a motivating factor. The satisfaction of clocking three digits in the diary kept me going, even though the comfortable duvet was ever present on those cold wet mornings.

My good friend Kevin Seaward, an international from Northern Ireland, recently posted this now infamous quote on his facebook page:
"Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'"
- Peter Maher

Peter Maher was a Canadian marathon runner who competed mainly in the 1990's. He was credited for a brief period with the record time for a half marathon and competed in the Olympic men’s marathons in Seoul, 1988 and Barcelona, 1992 and ran sub-2:12. In other words, he is a bit of a legend.

His description of running as a 'question mark' is interesting. In my experience the questions thrown up through training revolve around finding that kick to get out of the door every morning and evening. Am I going to be that proverbial wimp, or am I going to be the tough guy, the one sucking up the hurt for the greater good of my performance? Am I going to take the easy option and take the day off, or am I going to stand back at the end of a race knowing I have given everything I possibly could have done?

Unfortunately for runners, this can become obsessive. Days constantly spent thinking about the evening's training session, the times you want to run, that fear of the niggle growing in your right calf muscle, the wonder about what your rivals are doing, the feeling you need a caffeine hit to get you going again. We've all been there, and we know that only the strong perservere and get their just rewards.

Maybe the best summation of overcoming the issue is from former US Army General and 1912 Olympian, George Patton:
"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired ... you've always got to make the mind take over and keep going."

My question now is: am I strong enough today to give it everything in tonight's session?
When really I know deep down inside, so that I don't even need I ask in the first place, I am.

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