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Getting My Head Straight

Lately I’ve been doing most of my long runs on the same out and back section of road. Every weekend it’s the same. Head out along the road that I’ve come to know like the back of my hand, get to the turning point, and then head back the way I came.

IMG 0885Not the road…and clearly not a recent photo

I’ll be honest with you – it can get pretty monotonous. I know every stretch, every turn, exactly how far I have to go before I can head back toward home. The scenery is always the same and the hills are never changing. Sometimes the way out seems to drag on forever and I spend the entire run counting down the minutes until I can finally turn around.

I really make it sound so appealing, don’t I? I know what you’re all thinking — if I find it so monotonous, why the heck do I keep submitting myself to this form of torture?

Because the truth is that running along the same road week after week provides consistency. And for most of this training cycle, that consistency has been the only thing that gave me the confidence I needed to make it through long runs.

I don’t really know why, but confidence is something that I have really struggled with this time around. Whereas in the past, I sometimes failed to give certain runs the respect they deserved ["Oh, it's 'only' 15 miles. I don't need to worry about silly things like getting enough sleep, fueling, carrying water, or really think about the fact that I have to run for 2 hours without stopping!"], I now find myself with the complete opposite problem. Every single long run just seems so intimidating. I sit there in the morning stressing about the distance. Psyching myself out before I even take one step.

This all culminated before my recent 18-miler. I was so freaked out about the run that I kept putting it off…and almost backed out of doing it altogether. This was not your typical pre-long run anxiety — you know that mix of excitement and nerves that comes from not quite knowing how your body is going to feel that day. A feeling that boosts your adrenaline and can actually help propel you through the long run, because ultimately you’re just excited about the challenge and can’t wait to see how it’ll go.

I’m embarrassed to admit that this fear was quite literally crippling. That one run seemed like such an insurmountable challenge that I was ready to give up on VCM right then and there. Forget spring marathons…forget marathon training at all. I would focus on shorter races. Or maybe I would just retire from racing. Clearly I’m not cut out for it.

Believe me, I realize how silly and over-dramatic this all sounds. Typing it out now only makes it seem more ridiculous. But in the moment, I just couldn’t get out of my own head. I somehow forgot about one very important detail: this whole running thing is not my career. It’s not even a side job. It’s merely a hobby that I enjoy…and one at which I sometimes pretend to be mildly talented.

So after a few days (no, seriously…days) of freaking out about this run — a run that no one was forcing me to do or even cared if I completed — I finally was able to talk myself down from the ledge. By telling myself of two things:

1.) All you need to do is run ONE MILE at a time. That’s it. Get out the door. Put one foot in front of the other and run. If you only make it 5 or 10 or 15 miles, who cares. Just run one mile. And when you complete that one, run another. You don’t know how you’re going to do until you try.

2.) You finished a run along this same road last week. You did it before and you can do it again. All you have to do is run one more mile out…and then you can turn around. What’s one mile? Nothing.

These two tiny assurances completely turned the run around for me. As I mentioned in my last post, that 18 miles ended up being the best run I’ve had in a long time. And by far the best long run of this current training cycle. It’s amazing what happens when you stop being a crazy mental-case runner and start cutting yourself a little slack. Who would’ve thought…

I can’t say that the self-doubt has completely gone away. It’s still work to get my head straight — to keep my confidence up. But now, when I feel myself getting nervous about a run or a workout, I try to take a step back and remind myself that it’s just running. All I can do is go out and give it my best shot. And instead of focusing on what I can’t do or paces that I’m not hitting, I repeat two simple lines over and over again to get me through a particularly difficult or intimidating stretch.

i am strong i am able running mantra

I AM STRONG.

I AM ABLE.

Six words of reassurance. Six words that silence the doubt. Six words that are helping me keep my head straight…most of the time, anyway.

22 Responses to Getting My Head Straight

  1. I’ve recently learned that I cannot and should not think about my run the morning of. The more I think about it, the more I dread it and I keep procrastinating on and on. I need to wake up, and get out the door without thinking about what I’m doing, otherwise it takes me SO FREAKING LONG to get out the door.
    Steph´s last post ..Spring 20

    • Yes! The problems all stem from sitting around agonizing over the distance. Which I do all the time lately because I want to wait until it warms up outside. In the summer, there’s a lot of pressure to just get up and go before the heat…less procrastination means less time to think about it. But lately it’s so hard to get out there at the crack of dawn.

  2. Love it. A positive mind can really go a long way.
    Kristen L´s last post ..100 Miles

  3. I can relate SO much to the “I’ll just run shorter races. Or I’ll just stop racing, I’m not cut out for this anyways”. I think that like once a week these days.

    So you’re not the only one. But you are a really great runner :)

  4. So true that mantras can help us feel strong when the road gets rocky or we’re not as confident as we’d like. Love the last photo.
    Lauren @ Sassy Molassy´s last post ..99 Days and Go with the Flow

  5. I do this, except with speed instead of distance. I say that’s too fast I can’t do that. I’ll spend all day psyching myself out over it and it normally ends up okay
    Amanda´s last post ..It’s the Little Things

  6. Man I can relate to this. Thanks for reminding me that it’s just running. We are strong and we are able! Thanks! Take it one mile at a time and don’t look at the big picture. This attitude can be helpful for your move as well. Take it one box at a time or anything else that will make it easier for you.

  7. I love this and those 6 words are so powerful! Great job on the run :)
    Jen@HealthyFoodandFamily´s last post ..Waiting Too Long To Eat

  8. It’s so weird how you can totally psych yourself out on something like that. Every single week I look forward to my long run all week…like you said, its that nervous/anxious/excited feeling and to see what your body has it in that day. But then on the morning of the run, I wake up and feel so intimidated and overwhelmed by the distance in front of me. I try to remind myself not to think about the WHOLE thing and just to break it into segments, but I usually don’t feel less intimidated until I hit double digits. It is better when I am running with someone (which has been RARE this training cycle). The only thing that has helped has been to do the run SUPER early and it is dark and I am half asleep until mile 5 or so…but on the weekends who wants to wake up that damn early to run, when you have the whole day free?!!
    Corey´s last post ..Marathon Training Brain?

    • Yes – that’s another reason why I’ve been loving out and back routes for my long runs lately. It naturally breaks the run down into smaller (usually single digit) segments. I can tell myself “you only need to run 9 miles!” which sounds a lot more manageable than 18. Or “you’re already halfway to the turnaround point!” Breaking the run down into segments makes it seem way less intimidating.

      But getting out there early on the weekends is something I’ve been struggling with lately. As I mentioned to Steph above, I sit there waiting for the temperature to warm up…all the while agonizing about the distance and psyching myself out.

  9. I have thought that very same thing to myself multiple times during this marathon training “I’ll just stick to smaller races.” But the truth is exactly what you said– we are STRONG! We are ABLE!!
    Overthinking ruins everything, especially running.
    Great post!
    Elizabeth´s last post ..Speed Work.

  10. Thank you for writing this! I’m running my first 18-miler tomorrow, and needed some words of courage…
    Lina´s last post ..Getting over a bad run

  11. Thanks so much for this post!!! I have felt so uninspired and discouraged during my past few training runs… Last year I trained for my first half and each run was exciting and inspiring… This year I have struggled and I just can’t pinpoint why. Today during mile 10 of 12 I was running up a hill, drenched from the rain, freezing cold and I thought of your blog post… I repeated, “I am healthy, I am able, and I am strong. I will finish this…” It really did help me find motivation and strength!

    Thanks again! :)

    Lynn
    Lynn Carlson´s last post ..Weekend Recap: Running, Road tripping, Raspberries, and Really Awesome Wine!

    • You are very welcome!! I’m touched that you thought of this post while you were running and happy that it helped motivate you. I still have to remind myself constantly. The mantra got me through the low points of my 20 mile run yesterday.

      Hope you start feeling more confident during your runs from here on out!

  12. Hi Lauren! I also love running and I can’t live a day without making my daily routine of a 5-mile run. It became part of my day and I will feel very unsatisfied if I skip one day or two. I guess running is the only thing that relieves me from all the stress in my working environment and other struggles in life. It helps me clear my mind. It makes me happy. :-D
    Jim Abston´s last post ..Beta-Sitosterol: What You Don’t Know

  13. I think years of running has caused me not to respect the distance…I can do 15 miles after a late night! I don’t need fuel! It’s cold out, who needs water? I’m sure this comes back to bite me during the run and in the recovery phase. I definitely lost my confidence and motivation this training cycle and even resorted to running with music/podcasts…which I never ever do because I never never need the distraction.

    During the half I ran last month, I was convinced I should quit running and take on ultras where I can run long and slow and not care about time because OMG I’M SO SLOW AND WHY CAN’T YOU HOLD HALF MARATHON PACE YOU’LL SUCK AT THE MARATHON. <—- rational. I still PR'd. The mind is a crazy thing.
    Susan – Nurse on the Run´s last post ..five for friday

  14. Great article Lauren! I’m inspired to run again every afternoon. I stopped my daily routine when I was totally stressed out from work. It seems that my whole body is drained every time I think of running. I wish I could get back again. Thanks for sharing! :-D
    Julio Yohe´s last post ..Why Do We Experience Chronic Pain And How Is It Cured?

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