You do a lot of thinking when you’re marathon training.
Sometimes your mind replays the events of the week, good or bad. Other times you find yourself meditating on the same chorus of a certain song (even if you have another tune playing through your earphones).
Either way, you think.
I’ve run through anger, and grief, and tears. I’ve had meltdowns in the middle of nowhere, skipped for joy; raised my arms to the sky in praise. I’ve considered Bible verses, mapped out details for parties and spent moments wading in the midst of introspection, hearing only my steady breath and foot steps as accompaniment.
My high school cross country coach, who was a marathoner and Boston Marathon finisher himself, used to tell us that running “is 90% mental and 10% physical,” and I’ve definitely found that to be true. That’s why whenever someone says they’re amazed at what I do, I remind them that they too can do this. One step at a time is all that it takes.
For me to be successful and overcome the mental barriers on my long runs, it’s making sure that my emotional baggage has been dealt with prior to the run. It’s not always possible, so sometimes it works its way out miles in to a long weekend run.
This past Sunday as I ran my training run, I thought about my husband’s cousin’s family. Saturday morning I took my little guy out and met up with the family for a children’s cancer walk. Before they began, they invited families who had lost a child to cancer to step forward. Then the children who had overcome cancer. Finally, the children who were being treated.
Tears welled in my eyes as I watched my cousin and her daughter step up onto the stage. It had been a battle, but they had made it. They had conquered the evil beast.
As we began the walk, I noticed this sign:
It hit home.
A 3-year-old child in our church had just passed away from his battle with cancer. My cousin’s daughter had been one of the lucky ones. Praise be to God.
The thought of all of this both deflated me and inspired me during that run. If a little girl can beat the odds and survive such a brutal disease, I can run a few more miles. The pain that I endure is not anything compared to those who do not have their health.
I suppose when you’re training for a marathon and you’re left to just the thoughts in your head, you have a choice. How are you going to use those mental obstacles? Are you going to focus on the memories and thoughts that energize you, or instead zero in on how much your muscles are burning and how much you want to stop?
How will you overcome those mental hurdles? How bad do you want it?