A few weeks ago, I had the chance to
bug the hell out of chat with my cousin’s boyfriend who happens to also be a med student at Brown headed for a very successful career in orthopedic surgery. I have high hopes for a very successful mutual business arrangement with him in the future. IF I can convince them to move to NYC, that is.
Never gonna happen, but we can have really nerdy conversation about tendons and stuff at family gatherings. That’s right. We’re the cool table.
I had about a million questions I wanted to ask him (I restrained myself) but he had one for me, too.
“How much of running a marathon is mental and how much is physical?”
JB’s answer was 80% mental, 20% physical. I disagree slightly with those numbers. For me, 20 miles is physical. For 20 miles, my training will show. My speed workouts, my long runs, my 13-16 weeks of training will be out there for everyone to see.
My training makes all the difference when it comes to how I’m feeling at mile 20. After that, all bets are off.
Then mile 21 comes along. And 22. And here comes my mental game. Because, no matter how hard I’ve trained or how many miles I’ve logged, at mile 20, I am bored. I am tired. I am ready to be done. And yet, I have almost another whole hour of running to go.
Miles 20-26.2 is where the difference between a 3:45 and a 4:00 time happens.
Miles 20-26.2 is where I stop smiling and start hunkering down.
Miles 20-26.2 is where I remind myself that I’ve done this 9 times before and I will do it again.
Miles 20-26.2 is where I visualize finishing.
Miles 20-26.2 are my mental game.
I start to envision my familiar running routes so I don’t psych myself out about how much further I have to run. I think to myself, “Self, you know what 4 miles feels like in Central Park. Pretend you’re on that run, not this one.”
And I count down. And I finish.
My workouts make me fast. My long runs make me fit. My gym time makes me strong. But it’s all bubkis if my mental game isn’t there. So don’t get all caught up in the runs and focus on keeping your head in the game.
If finishing 9 marathons has taught me anything it’s that if I just keep going, I will eventually reach the finish line.
Now go out and run!