Mental games are something we all play with ourselves. Maybe it’s to avoid the cookie jar. Or to get out of bed when our alarm goes off instead of hitting snooze. Lately, I’ve been using mental games to get through my longer training runs.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently training for my first half marathon. I’ll be running the Monster Dash in Saint Paul on October 29. ((please Minnesota just hold off on the snow until then okay?!)) The next three long runs I have coming up are 8, 10, and 12 miles. I know I can do it, but I also know I’ll be using mental games to happily complete these distances.
I’ve done two 10 mile runs. With two very different outcomes. Lessons have been learned.
The first, with Mill City Running and Girls on the Run Twin Cities went great! I started nice and slow and picked up my pace toward the end, when I had to conquer hills and get it over with. I also had a running buddy for the first three miles, causing me to focus on easing into the run, maintaining a comfortable pace so I could talk, and just enjoying the company of another person. Once I was warmed up and ready to go, I left my buddy behind, turned my podcasts on, and focused on the run, mile by mile. I should also mention that the weather was perfect. Just the right amount of sunshine, lower humidity, and upper 60s. If every long run could be on a day like this one, I’d be happy.
So here’s what happened.
I didn’t stop running–not once! I just kept moving my feet the whole way through, listening to Limetown before ending with my carefully curated Spotify playlist. I ate two Clif Bloks and kept a steady 9:30-9:45 pace right until the end. Every time I found myself thinking ahead, I pulled it back to my breath. Four breathes in, three breathes out. It’s different for everyone, but for me, that’s the sweet spot.
Alright, let’s move onto the second 10 mile run, completed last weekend.
First off, BAD WEATHER! It was really humid and I was sweaty by the first mile. Sweaty as in when I finished the run, my leggings felt like I went to a hot yoga class. That’s a lot of sweat. There are good mental games, and bad mental games. For this run, I played the bad ones beforehand and I paid for it. From mile 3 on, I wanted to quit. Quit as in I was audibly groaning each time I peeked at my distance, I adjusted my socks a million times as an excuse to take a break, and I was switching podcasts every 10 minutes. Summing it up, I was antsy and anxious to be done.
They call it training for a reason.
There are going to be good runs and bad runs. What’s important is that you make it through and come back ready to conquer the next one. Mental games help. Run the mile you’re in, think positively before and during the run, and try to meet up with someone or run in a local race so you don’t have to cover the mileage alone. Line up your podcasts, stack a playlist with your favorite tunes to push you to the finish, and load your tiny key pockets with whatever mid-run fuel you prefer. If you do these things, you’ll make it. Yes, blisters will happen. Yes, there will be days when you want to quit. But come race day, you’ll have the mental and physical stamina to finish your race strong.
What mental games do you play with yourself? Let me know! I’m always looking for new tricks to try from more experienced runners.