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Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Power of the Mind



"All that I am, I am because of my mind."
-Paavo Nurmi

I think the most important thing in distance running is psychology.  Yes, you need to train your body.  Yes, you need to look at your splits.  But you also need to look at what you believe you can do.  You also need to train the mind.  Without the mind, you cannot push the body.  The mind controls the body-and when the body is in pain, the mind must not listen to it.  The mind can be very powerful when it controls the body.  When Roger Bannister broke the 4:00 mile, it was only weeks later it was broken again by someone else.  There are many examples like this in distance running.

I think there are 2 parts, really that the role of the mind takes place in distance running.  The first part, is it being able to push the body to train.  Intervals are hard, and they should be hard for the most part.  They are not meant to be easy.  The mind tells the body how many it will do that day, and it will do it.  The second part, and perhaps the most important, is the mind pushing the body to race.  Racing is different than training.  The goal of training is to get your body to adapt to a better pace, or higher amount of mileage, and to get stronger.  Sometimes, and very often with elite runners, the workouts are harder than the races in a certain way.  Besides the workouts being very demanding, this is also because the body is getting stronger, and the mind has to push HARD for the body to get where it is trying to be.  Racing is when the body is adapted and ready to perform.  But the body cannot race without the mind.  The mental push and focus required during races is very demanding, but physically, the body is there, ready.  All the body needs during a race is for the mind to tell it the ENTIRE WAY..."get to the finish line...with NOTHING left."

If you can do this, you have MAXIMIZED your potential on that race day.  If you feel you could not run one more single step faster during that race, that you had absolutely nothing left and everything was left out on the course, then your mind has conquered your body.

This is not easy to do.  It takes weeks, months, and years to master.  And yet, it keeps going, because as we break new barriers as runners, we have set new ones to break.

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My mileage was a bit lower this week(I only hit 78), but I did the Kentlands 5K as a race tune-up to get my body(and my mind) ready for my first big fall race in a few weeks.  The race went well, and my goal was to compete and get my stride open, even though my body was not completely fresh from the pervious training weeks.  I placed 2nd and got nipped in the end for 1st place, running 15:15 and losing by one second.  In hindsight, I really didn't care that much that I lost, more so that I competed and got in the effort since the REAL race is in 2 weeks.  I am not in peak shape for the 5K right now-which is a good thing!  Still, I was impressed that, despite very humid conditions(worse conditions than last year), I ran faster than last year.  And, picking up $200 was pretty sweet too.  I am looking foward to getting in one last hard workout this week and then tapering down.  The day after the 5K I did another 20 mile long run (my 6th in a row!) at an easy average of 7:00 pace-I did sleep in a bit and it was humid as $hit though.  But its really great I have done 20+ milers every week for the past 6 weeks, I think just getting used to this is going to make me so much stronger by the time november rolls around for the marathon.

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