I feel like I’m constantly reminded how extremely mental running is for me and this week was no exception. Non-runners think I’m nuts when I say running is really more mental than physical; and honestly, if you had told me that during middle school gym class when I almost puked during a 1-mile run, I probably would have slapped you. Most runners will agree though that any distance, or time PR’s they have hit have came from something deeper than just their legs. There gets to a point where you just don’t care what your body feels like and that’s when your mind takes over. It’s when you’re mind says, “F*ck you body.”
A couple of weeks ago I made a commitment to myself to get my shit together and start training for the Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon on April 28th. I then obviously got sick for two weeks (classic), but still kept up my commitment as well and as safely as possible. I cut back, but I “got it done.” Running when you can’t breath out of your nose is a different physical challenge, but I consider it a strong mental one as well — putting on running clothes to go run in the cold when you’re body wants to stick it’s ass to the couch is TOUGH.
This week I was in Little Rock, Arkansas for the beginning of the week for work and again, I kept up my commitment. I got in 2 runs, even telling my coworker on the 2nd day of my new job that, “I’d love to go to dinner with her, but I’d need an hour to run first.” Commitment doesn’t come with social niceties and really, neither do I. I was tired and would have loved nothing more than to sit in my hotel room, or at a nice restaurant with a glass of wine, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I can tell you I did not regret one run.
The whole past couple of weeks have been a mental test to get my body moving, but Friday’s long run is when mind over matter truly kicked in. I’d say moving, starting a new job and traveling all within one week puts just a tad of stress on a person; and since that person is anxiety ridden me, we can pretty much double it. By Friday I was worn out to say the least, but I wanted to get my 6 mile long run in before the weekend. The plan was to meet Megan at 8am on the Brooklyn Bridge no matter what. So no, I didn’t sleep a wink and yes it was freezing out, but there was no backing out. I drowsily got out of bed, grot dressed, had 1/2 a Clif bar and headed into the early morning air. My first steps, I seriously felt like I didn’t know how to run. My body was sore from Pilates Reformer the night before and the running motion felt foreign. I live right across from the Brooklyn Bridge so I was headed up the incline in no time. Let’s just say the uphill running didn’t feel great. I just kept telling myself to take it slow. Ever since I started running I’ve had a hard fast rule that I will NEVER stop on a hill; I will NEVER let the hill win. If the hill is that tough that I need to walk down it, that’s cool, but the uphill is not a question (needless to say I’ve never walked down a hill either). Once I got over the incline onto the bridge I started to realize how F*ING cold it was. The view was nice, but the lovely breeze was fierce.
I kept running until I met Megan on the downhill on the other side of the Bridge. We turned around and started running back towards Manhattan. I, probably not so kindly (sorry!), told Megan that I couldn’t talk to her until we were up the incline. My lungs hurt from the cold air and it was hard to breathe, let alone talk. After just little over a mile of running I felt wiped out. I was panting. Once we made it off the Brooklyn Bridge I started to feel a little better and we headed towards the West River.
My legs started to feel better, but the cold didn’t letup. I was well dressed in warm running clothes AND carrying hand warmers, but most of my body felt numb. Picking up the pace wasn’t even an option, the only feeling coming from my legs was a stinging cold sensation. Megan has asked me the night before how many miles I had wanted to run. My response was:
“6, but I’m shooting for 2. That’s how I avoid disappointment.”
…and I seriously meant that. Around mile 3 in the run I considered to myself, I could end the run soon, take a nice hot shower and get feeling in my numb body back….or I could hold out 3 more miles and get it done. I bargained with myself and I finished out the 6 miles. Company aside, I would not consider this a pleasant run. When it was done, though, I was 100% glad I got my run in and would have done it again.
Once I got back to my apartment, I just sat down on my floor because I didn’t see any other viable option. I was numb. My body literally felt like it was melting as the cold washed away. My legs, hands and stomach were all bright red. I turned on the news where the weatherman kindly informed me that it was 30 degrees, feels like 18. How the heck did I just run for an hour in “feels like 18!?!” was all I could think. That’s when it hit me in retrospect how it was completely mind over matter. At 7:45am I had made it out my door, outside in the cold. I reasoned that all I had to do was keep myself there and I did.
So what’s the morale of my story? I’m not quite sure… Running isn’t always easy, it’s not always fun, but I do always thank myself after I complete every run. Running obviously makes my lungs, my heart and my endurance physically stronger; but I would argue that running is also strengthening my mind.
QUESTION: What did you learn from your runs this week? How much of running do you feel is Mental vs. Physical for you?