After running four marathons, and doing complete training runs for three of them (two were within a month of each other), I can say that I’ve run at least 20 miles more than a few times at this point. Despite my familiarity with the distance, each run is different. No run is like another. You may run the same route(s), but you are never the same person or are in the same place mentally or physically every time. That said, I found this past weekend’s 20 mile training run for the NYC Marathon to be one of my tougher ones to date.
I can look back at my first-ever 20 mile training run. It was in 2012, when I was training for my first marathon, the 2013 26.2 with Donna. I still recall how hard that morning was. My legs felt like lead as the miles increased. It became easier to run than walk. It was a challenging run learning what I could push myself to do. My great group leaders at the time were truly a part of that challenge. I remember wanting to give up, just wanting to stop in the middle of the run and sit down. Deep down, I knew I could continue, that I could keep going as I trudged along. But, my brain kept nagging me to cease and deceit. That’s what Jeff Galloway calls the “monkey brain,” it’s the part of your brain that feels the pain and tells you that you can’t do it. One of my group leaders, Nancy helped me get through that 20 mile run. While I dragged myself along well behind the group, she told me that I could do it. That, I was fine and needed to just push through and keep moving.
Memories of that very run come back to me during tough runs like the one I had on Saturday. It’s funny how clear some old memories can be years later. A run or workout may feel like you are trying to do the seemingly impossible some days, but it’s all about knowing how strong we truly are. What makes it easier is to work on your mental training just like you do your physical training. Your subconscious brain, aka the “monkey mind,” can make a long run even more difficult if you don’t know how to overcome that mindset. This is done through positive thinking, mantras, race rehearsals and such.
I love mantras. My main mantra for my first marathon was, “Feel the fear, do it anyway.” I had a bracelet made with it and wore it during the race. I still use it to this day. Another big one for me is my faith. I remind myself that, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Whatever it takes to distract myself from the fact that I am getting that negative feeling of wanting to stop out of my mind. The mantras really do work!
When I’m out training with my running group, I’m grateful for each and every one of them. Socializing makes the miles go by such much more quickly. Talking about this and that helps keep the subconscious reflex brain from getting the better of your frontal lobe and helps you stay positive. This is just what this past weekend’s run was about, keeping the right brain in charge so that mentally, it was easier to keep going when things got tough.
Once my Garmin hit that glorious 20 mile mark, I knew that I had finished what I set out to accomplish that morning. It always feels good to get the miles we have on the schedule done as we are training. As I grabbed an ice-cold towel and ice pop at the conclusion of the run, I couldn’t help but smile. No matter how hard a run is, I always make sure to have a smile on my face at the end. We need to be proud of what we do as runners, it’s hard work! Marathon runners are a different kind of breed, we are crazy…crazy enough to think we can do what so many others think can’t be done.
Waking up Sunday morning, my entire body recalled those 20 miles as DOMS set in. Despite the aches and tiredness that followed the miles, I have to say, I would go back and do it again. In fact, I will be….in three weeks I’ll be doing my 23 mile long run, the second to last long run before the big marathon fun.
Did you do a long run or race this past weekend? I’d love to hear about it!