• Running and Head Games

    My friend asked me to write about the head games when it comes to running, in particular how do I keep going when it comes to training for a race, not quit, and accomplish a goal. For me, once I’ve paid the race registration, not doing the race is not an option. The only exception has been the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix when I was in a car accident three weeks before race day.

    Running by Tomas Fano from Flickr
    Running by Tomas Fano from Flickr

    I don’t train for 5Ks. I rarely ever do 5K races because I think it’s wrong that I will spend more time getting ready for the race and driving to the starting line than I will actually spend doing the race. But on the rare occasion I do one, my performance may be completely pathetic if I haven’t been training because I forget that 3.1 miles will be painful if I haven’t been running.

    For long races like half marathons, I lock in to a training program very easily. I like Hal Higdon’s half marathon training program for novices. Even though I’ve done the half marathon four times, I stick with this program because it gets me ready for the race without causing too much leg pain for my ex-gymnast body.

    I’m really strict about sticking to the training program. I put it on my calendar and not doing a run is not an option. It doesn’t have to be pretty; it doesn’t have to be fun; but it does have to get done.  It’s just one foot in front of the other. I plan out my route in advance so I know where my turns are and I just crank it out. There are almost no excuses for not doing a run.

    • I’m tired: Suck it up. The faster you run, the sooner you get home.
    • It’s dark: Wear a reflective belt so cars can see you and a headlamp so you can see where you’re going.
    • It’s cold: Bundle up.
    • It’s below freezing and there’s ice on the sidewalk: Wait until the ice melts but you’re still going.
    • It’s hot: Run before sunrise and put on some sunblock.
    • It’s raining: Leave your iPod at home.
    • I’m traveling: Pack your sneakers.
    • I’m sick: Would walking your miles interfere with you getting better?
    • I’m sore: Stretch more.
    • I’m hurt: Take it easy or walk.
    • I’m injured: Stay home and get better.
    • I’m busy: Make it work. If something’s important to you, you make the time.

    One tactic that works well for me is running first thing in morning. I lay out all my clothes and gear the night before so I can get up and out the door before I fully realize that I’m awake. Once I’m on the road, I’m fine, but getting out the door sometimes the hardest part.

    And I take comfort in knowing that running isn’t always fun even for the die-hard runners. I was at Runner’s Den getting new shoes last year and it was comforting to hear a clerk say that the first two miles are always painful for him. That’s me too, especially on the longer runs. It takes 10-20 minutes for my body to get used to pounding the pavement and find a rhythm for that day’s run.

    So how does this translate to setting and achieving goals the real world that require a long term commitment?

    • Have a plan of action that makes sense for who you are and your goal.
    • Commit to following the plan. No, really commit to the plan.
    • Set yourself up to succeed.
    • Confront your excuses.
    • Adjust your plan when sticking to it will likely keep you from achieving the ultimate goal.

    Goals should be hard to achieve. That’s part of what makes them worth pursuing. Accept that it’s not always going to be a fun time and take comfort that everyone who’s working towards a goal isn’t happy all the time along the way.