Many people would suggest Ultra Running is only 10% physical and 90% is mental. I admit I’ve seen my share of runners who I felt hadn’t trained at all for a race and then complete it. Yet others who seemed to have trained sufficiently, yet ended up in failing to finish. How can this be and is it really all a mental game? How do we win that mental game and complete our goals?
Yes, I’ve crossed that elusive finish line many times, but I’ve also tasted the dreaded DNF. It those experiences which brought me to a few conclusions as to how I stay strong mentally. It’s not something we can train for, but something we must pull deep from within ourselves.
Add the following tools to your bucket, and access them whenever you need to, to stay mentally strong.
Most runners who are running a marathon distance or longer will at some point in the race begin to question why they are doing this to themselves. Not everyone starts running because they love to run. I might even suggest that most don’t start for that reason.
So why did you start running? Was health your motivation? Weight loss? Maybe a friend asked you to join them? For some, it’s a sort of spiritual connection or alone time they seek. We may not all have started out running with a strong love for it, but somewhere along the way if you are running ultra distances, you’ve found a reason. So what is it for you?
Ultra runners are often misunderstood as the distance seems so extreme and sometimes unimaginable. I like to find that place in my heart and mind that brought me to running and use it as motivation to continue. Tuck a few of those motivational thoughts in your bucket for later in the race when you’re hurting or discouraged.
It is so important to set goals. Most of us have set goals our entire lives and often not even thought about it. Maybe your goal was to go to college, follow a career path, buy a house or car. We set a goal and focus on accomplishing our objective. Running ultra distances can be a goal. You set your sights on a 50K, a 50 Miler, maybe a 100K or 100 Miler. These distances can take 12 or 24 hours, often longer and you can achieve each one, after slowly building up to each distance. So, we set goals, develop a plan and stay focused. Remembering the goal and what you want to accomplish, is always a great thing to have in the bucket.
For me, this is the key to it all! Most of us have those doubting thoughts that creep into our heads while running. Hours and miles on your feet gives you plenty of time for your mind to start telling yourself all the negative things you’re experiencing. The key is to “stop listening to yourself talk and start speaking to yourself.” Make a conscious effort to tell yourself positive things and push aside the negative thoughts we all experience.
When I first started running, I often focused on a close friend of mine who had lost her battle with cancer. She fought a hard battle to beat cancer, and I would tell myself, “if she could fight that hard, I can do this.” You need to find those positive talking points in your life and then begin to speak it to yourself. If you fill your bucket with several positive things you can reference so they are always right there for you when you need them most.
Published October 2016