Anyone who’s ever run, even just a little bit, knows that running starts and stops in your head. From the very basics of how the human body/brain works to the emotional and mental strength to press on long after your legs and body send signals saying they are done.
Thankfully, or not depending one how you look at it, I know for myself what being “done”, and being “really done” is and the difference between the two. “Done” means I’m tired, I want it to be over, I could stop and who would care, lets just call it a day right now. “Really Done” means it’s not healthy or safe to continue, I’m risking injury or serious illness if I don’t stop right this second. “Really Done” has only happened during training runs thankfully.
It takes the same determination and strength to listen to both types of Done and proceed accordingly. I know, I know, how hard is it to just stop and take care of yourself right?! While I haven’t had to DNF (did not finish) a race yet, I have had to drop from a half to a 10K, and have skipped a race entirely, and that was hard. I know for myself it would be extremely difficult to call a race once I’ve started. All the training, travel, race fees, planning, goal setting down the drain, and the disappointment in self that I’m sure would follow would make it darn near impossible for me to not finish at almost all cost. Almost….I’d like to think I’d stop if I was truly sick or risking serious injury.
I am all too familiar with the other kind of Done though. I believe that we, or at least I, race to the distance. So, even if I’m “only” running a 5K I still have thoughts about half way through of just wanting to stop, and be done, and why oh why am I doing this.
Making running life decisions during a race, especially a longer one, when having issues is probably not the best time to be making them. Sort of like shopping while hungry. But, I had done just that. By mile 9 or so I was dealing with stomach acid burning it’s way up my esophagus, feeling the life drain out of my legs, knowing I had not trained properly at all (zero hill training…mostly because of car accident treatment plan), being beyond frustrated that yet another fueling experiment had not worked, and yet again running in warmer temps than my body likes…hello sweaty chills and uncontrollable shaking. I was so frustrated with everything, but mostly with my state of mind. I was starting to think I couldn’t finish, that I had no business even being there trying to run. Those last miles I was fighting my body and my mind to keep going.
The result…after crossing the finish line I decided I was going to be done with half’s for sure, maybe even running for a good long time. It just felt like everything fell apart, and the last few races have been that way.
Per usual I sent a text to my Dad letting him know I finished, that it was hard & I had once again been sick during the race, but still managed my 2nd best time. His reply was along the lines of (I forget the exact wording) that’s because you are determined and you pushed through. Those few words changed my entire thinking.
I’ve been striving for the perfect, strong mental game. Nothing but positive I can do it thinking with zero room for doubt or thoughts of I can’t. I don’t like self doubt, in life, or running. But, really the mental strength comes from having those thoughts and not giving up. Somehow finding the strength to run to the next fence post, now get to that tree up there, ok water stop in 1 mile you can make it, keep your legs moving, even slowly, only 2 miles to go…your short training runs are longer than that. That’s a strong mental game right there, digging deep to overcome the negative thoughts, and tired body to keep going.
Sky and I at the Bannister Mile
I could take lessons from Sky for sure. It was so interesting running that mile with her and listening to her thought process. 3 year old’s think verbally, so every thought that crossed her mind crossed her lips. She was tired, and hot, and talking about how hard it was. But, she was also talking about everything that was distracting her like the practice going on in the field next to the track, the other runners that were lapping us & cheering for them, telling me she was going to run slower, ok now faster, switching lanes, holding my hand, then not.
At 3 she already has that strong mental game in place using all sorts of tactics to distract her from being tired. Not finishing that mile never crossed her mind. I gave her the option every lap to call it and be happy with what she’d already done. Every single time she said “No mommy, let’s keep going, I’ll finish”. I’m putting that on a loop in my mind next time I start struggling “No Sky, I’m going to keep going, I’ll finish”.
I’m still taking a half marathon break, because I have got to figure out how to fuel (or not, maybe it’s time to try only taking water and nothing else) without making myself sick. I have a list of options I’ve researched, and will be spending some time on my own, running the way I need to to figure it all out. At least I have made peace with the mental side of it though.