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15
Sep

Successful Running? It's All in the Mind... (Well, mostly)

Posted by on in Kinesiology
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And although it was exhausting doing battle with it for about a mile and a half, I felt better for not having given in to it. Once out of its clutches, I struggled to find the steady pace I'd maintained so well before the wind. But yet again, unlike on seemingly every run since March, I didn't criticise myself for it. I ran for as long as I could until I needed to walk for a bit. I picked a landmark and said, "If you can make it to that bin/lamp post, then you can take a short breather". And because I was seeing the break as a reward for having reached the target rather than a defeat at not being able to run further, my recovery time was shorter!Recently I have found myself under the cloud of depression again. I knew I was there - it's not my first visit - but I didn't realise the impact it was having on my running, until yesterday morning. Up until the end of March when I completed the Olympic Park Run, I was doing really well - getting faster and stronger and really loving running. I entered this year's Royal Parks Half Marathon and Great South Run confident that this year I would achieve a really good personal best having got off to such a good start. But then it started to rain. Every day for seemingly ages and my regular runs fell by the wayside.

But with the October events fast approaching, I knew I had to get back to it and since June I have made a concerted effort to get back to pavement-pounding a couple of times of a week. I wasn't particularly enjoying the experience and I certainly didn't seem able to come even close to the pace I was easily achieving in March. "But the events are coming: I have to keep at it," I kept telling myself, especially since I'd pledged to raise money for Mind, a charity close to my heart.

And at some point in the last few months, the cloud of depression had returned. I don't usually notice it at first and I seldom understand why it's there. But there it has been. On Wednesday, I went to see my Kinesiologist. I told her how I'd been feeling and we did a lot of work including mantras, affirmations and finding Flower Remedies to help me think positively. I felt much better when I left and I slept well.

I had booked Friday morning off work so that I could fit in my long training run - 10 miles. I'd run the distance on Sunday. I say "run" but it had been the usual struggle to find a consistent pace, stop to walk off a stitch or ache or pain. Stop to catch my breath. Stop to have some water. Walk a bit, run a bit... This has been the pattern for many, many weeks.

But yesterday morning was different. I was nearly 2 miles in before I questioned whether I should slow down to assess the pain in my ankle. Looking at my watch, I thought, "Nearly two miles done already! That's better than Sunday." I slowed down a bit, wiggled my ankle and then carried on. A little bit further on and usually I get a breather waiting for the lights to change so I can cross a busy road but this time, they were in my favour and I carried on running. It felt good!

It then struck me that I was finding the run so much easier than I have done since March and I realised it was because I was feeling more positive. Little niggles didn't phase me - I checked in with myself to see how bad they really felt and actually, they weren't that bad! When I did have to slow down, I wasn't beating myself up for "only" being 2 miles in and already struggling. And I noticed that the 'breathers' I was taking were considerably shorter than I've become used to simply because I wasn't berating myself for my poor performance!

As I got closer to the half distance, I became aware that my pace had increased so much that, as good as it felt at the time, I couldn't realistically sustain it for another 5+ miles. And again, instead of beating myself up for being so stupid as to go off too fast, I found myself thinking, "Great, that 4 miles has gone really quickly! Now let's settle down a bit." I reset my MP3 player to the start of my running playlist as the songs at the beginning of that have a beat I find perfect for a steady paced run. I quickly got back into a comfortable rhythm which I maintained until I had to turn left to start the loop back home and was hit by such a strong headwind that I had to stop just to stay on my feet!

There are two things I absolutely loathe when running: wind and hills. And here I was, at the halfway point, facing one of my nightmares. For a few minutes, the gusts were so strong I struggled to walk. But instead of giving up because the wind had "ruined" my run, I found myself feeling grateful of the chance to get used to battling against it, just in case it's windy for either (or heaven forbid, both!) of the events. When I felt the wind drop a bit, I picked up my pace and managed to jog into it. I kept telling myself, "the longer you can maintain a faster pace, the quicker you can get out of the wind." Previously, I'd have been thinking, "Stupid wind, I can't possibly run in this!".

And although it was exhausting doing battle with it for about a mile and a half, I felt better for not having given in to it. Once out of its clutches, I struggled to find the steady pace I'd maintained so well before the wind. But yet again, unlike on seemingly every run since March, I didn't criticise myself for it. I ran for as long as I could until I needed to walk for a bit. I picked a landmark and said, "If you can make it to that bin/lamp post, then you can take a short breather". And because I was seeing the break as a reward for having reached the target rather than a defeat at not being able to run further, my recovery time was shorter!

By the time I'd completed the 10 miles, I realised I had taken nearly 7 minutes off the time it had taken me to run the same distance on Sunday! And I'd enjoyed it, once I'd got used to the wind. It's amazing what a little positive thinking can do!

I'm looking forward to the final weeks of training now and making the most of them. I'd like to think with my new positive outlook that I may still be able to achieve a personal best at each race, but I'm not going to be hard on myself if I can't. I'm going to enjoy the events and hopefully raise a good sum of money for Mind. And if I achieve personal best times as well, it'll be the icing on the cake.

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