Not sure how this fits into the mental toughness topic. I guess it’s more in line with racing the shape you’re in.
Zeke, I was also thinking of bringing this up because I also think the mental game is very significant. I also wanted to point out what you mentioned here because this is something that Coach Hall worked through with me when I was in college. I went through a period of putting a lot of pressure on myself to perform at a very high level. After letting me try to work through it, Coach Hall sat down with me. We looked through my training and talked about what goals we had set for me. His whole point of the discussion was that nobody was asking me to do more than we all knew I was capable of. I was putting the pressure on myself. Once I accepted that I was perfectly capable of what was being asked of me, I was more relaxed and reached the goals we had set forth.
Some of this seems to be confusion about what mental toughness means. Is what Coach Hall and I worked through mental toughness? I say of course. I didn’t have the toughness and discipline to calm myself down and realize that I was capable of my goals. Mental toughness encompasses many aspects of running. When I was running those 150 mile weeks, do you think that didn’t require some mental toughness? Hell, I averaged 23 miles a day for 7 days including 62 miles in two days. That doesn’t take any mental toughness, right? How about some of the workouts we do? You know, those workouts where you are jogging a recovery and thinking how your legs feel like jello and you have no idea if you can get through your last repeat. How do you respond? Do you pack it in or do you suck it up and push through the last repeat? We all have those voices in our heads during the races (at least I don’t think it’s just me) telling us that we can’t maintain this pace or we can’t possibly go that much farther. How do you respond? Do you back off or do you tell yourself that you’ll do it or die trying?
The biggest aspect of mental toughness, IMHO, is simply believing in yourself. When someone tells you that you can’t do something, what is your response? Do you say “yeah, you’re probably right” or do you say “screw you, I can do it and I’m going to prove you wrong”? I can’t even tell you how many times in my life I’ve been told that I can’t accomplish something. By now, I actually like it when people tell me I can’t do something. Please tell me I can’t qualify for the Olympic Trials because that’s just what I want to hear. I promise two things. First, I won’t forget that you said that. Second, I won’t rub it in your face when I prove you wrong.