I spent the weekend sitting on the sidelines while everyone else seems to be heavily invested in their goal races. Following my twitter feed, I’m reminded by every hard won marathon finish that what we do is never easy or predictable.
Every bump in the road, whether it is a bad training session, possible injury, or the inevitable self doubt that accompanies tapering seems magnified in the days leading up that goal event. Sometimes the jitters win. Other times they are crushed underfoot with a performance that defies all logic. All too frequently, even when you train hard and are mentally prepared, Mother Nature decides that it will not be your day.
The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race. - Marathon Spectator Sign
There is much written about the mental toughness required by endurance athletes. A runner’s attitude can have as much effect on performance as does their training. In fact many professional athletes work with a sports psychologist on specific coping strategies.
How you cope with the seemingly inevitable hardships that eventually all endurance athletes face can make or break your goal race performance. The best athletes train their brains to be as tough as their bodies, using techniques like self talk, visualization and meditation. In essence, creating a mindset where the more adversity you face the more positive you much become. Since anxiety in competition is inevitable you must be prepared to deal with it effectively. Silencing the negativity demon whispering your inner fears is never easy. We all easily give in to self doubt when the only competition is the clock and the sound of our footsteps on the pavement (or trail).
So as I watched my friends’ times and read their tweets, I slowing began to stop feeling sorry for myself. Soon enough, I’d hear their stories, feel their emotions as they shared their triumphs and tragedies and deep down inside I know soon enough I’ll be back out there too.