Thoughts · Workouts

MINDSET – It’s all in your head

Oops, I made a pun. I really should apologise… apart from I won’t! I actually planned this pun on a run, and even thinking about it made me smile whilst my legs were pumping. Puns make me happy and for me, happiness makes me a better and more confident runner. So no, I won’t apologise for my puns!

This was on Saturday, the first run in a week where I’ve felt confident and free. Last week was, not going to lie, a bit of a write-off. My long run was broken up by tears and me sitting on the trail willing myself to move, and every other run seemed just to be a ride on the struggle bus.

It might be the heat here in Santiago, where the past couple of weeks have been an eternal streak of blindingly sunny days at over 100F. As an English girl, I’m really not used to these conditions! It’s led to problems structuring my runs and my days to try and run at the coolest parts, and to planning my routes to include shade and water stops.

Perhaps I can also blame it on my Bluetooth headphones and phone which decided to refuse to link up for most of last week. It wasn’t the headphones – they linked up fine to my computer – but my phone was having none of it. I didn’t have the money at the time to replace my expensive headphones and didn’t want to go shopping until I was sure they were broken. So I did my runs either without music, or with awful awful airplane headphones with terrible sound quality and one ear that doesn’t work…

It might have also been a total weariness of the training cycle. I’ve been running 40+ mile weeks almost consistently since Easter (apart from a few weeks when I first moved out to Santiago) and my body just needed to stop. I did that for two weeks when my boyfriend came out to visit me at the beginning of November and running took a real backseat. After that, I only had 3 weeks until my 48km trail race and I really needed to kick my ass back into gear, but my brain just wasn’t having it.

Oh, and that’s probably the other thing – I’m utterly terrified about my trail race. Not all the time, but when I think too hard about what I’m doing or when I talk to people and they react with awe and disgust and disbelief, I lose a little bit of self-confidence. It’s going to be tough, very tough, and I just don’t know how to prepare for this sort of thing because I’ve never done it before.

So last week I got into a mindset of “oh, but I’m going to fail. Oh, I’m going to be really slow. What if I come last? What if I don’t make it?”. And this knocked my confidence in all of my other runs, culminating in the truly terrible beast that was my Friday long run. Never try running 16 miles up a 4000ft mountain in the heat, with a dodgy stomach, tired and with a defeated attitude – it just won’t happen! Or it will happen, but it will happen slowly and in pain and you will punish yourself for having taken 4 hours to complete a distance that normally would take you less than 2.5.

But actually, that long run is what changed my mind-set and improved my motivation. I turned it on its head – I might not be fast, but even that terrible 16 miles of trail running and hiking only took me 4 hours. I have a 13-hour time limit for this race, and if that took me 4 hours, I’m sure I can complete the 30 miles in 13 hours, even if I’m struggling and walking more than I am running.

So, I woke up on Saturday drained from the emotions of the long run but also physically so much more motivated to continue my training. My headphones miraculously linked up to my phone (cue me almost crying with happiness) and I set off to run a 4-mile recovery run at sunset. It was beautiful, it was cool, my legs just wanted to move, and I felt so at ease with myself. I came home, and I thanked my lucky stars that it hadn’t been another of the terrible training sessions.

Sunday dawned, and I was faced with another hard workout: 10 miles on tired legs with miles 2, 3, and 4 on a constant dragging incline up to the top of an 1000ft altitude gain. Having learnt from the beauty that was Saturday, I waited until almost sunset to leave the house and started on my way. The first 2 miles were hard, and I almost gave up. There was a splitting point at 2.5 miles where I could either branch off and go to the top of the hill, or carry on and cut my workout short by 3 miles and I was sorely tempted just to cut it short. But mentally, I was in a happy place and I just continued battling up that hill up to the top until I realised that I was actually having so much fun!

The last 6 miles of Sunday’s run were just easy, downhill, listening to Hamilton and just trying to let my legs carry me! I gave in to my head, and my head was telling me YES, YOU ARE A RUNNER. My legs were tired, but that was because I knew I had worked them as hard as I could earlier in the week and in that workout. But it wasn’t painful mentally, it wasn’t them telling me to give up, it was them congratulating me on becoming a stronger runner.

And that’s the attitude I’m going to go in with for my race. I don’t need to be fast, I don’t need to be able to run up all the hills. All I need to do is continue and keep going when my mood is low and the going gets tough – because I WILL FINISH THIS. And whatever time I get? I’ll just take that as one to improve on next time.

2 thoughts on “MINDSET – It’s all in your head

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