This article was originally posted by Ed at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
I just read an article (Runner’s World) on beating mental roadblocks in training and racing. Some of their ideas seem so silly. It is tough to just "tell yourself" to do better or to just ignore or replace negative thoughts or to "just smile." For me mental roadblocks are more than motivation. A mental roadblock needs mental toughness to overcome any and (nearly) all obstacles.
For me a mental roadblock is brought on by some sort of physical signal from my body. Signals like the beginning of a side stitch or my breathing getting out of control or even that wonderful burning sensation in the legs. This is what I want to be able to overcome and push through to the end of the race.
I have realized that I need to distract myself with more than the silly ideas like "I really want the race shirt" or "its ok if I get a (much) slower time because I made my goal so wide open" mentioned in the article. It has to be something concrete and directly related to my goal for that workout or race. I have had some success with shortening the race mentally – "catch and pass that runner in front of you – that’s all, just pass them and hold on" which seems to work best. However, what do I do when I just cannot close that gap? Get a glimpse of the runner chasing me and try to widen that gap.
I want to learn how to ignore a side stitch as painful as they sometimes feel, running through it, working to control it and not slow down. I want to learn how to continue racing when my breathing is out of control or my legs feel like they are on fire. I want to do this without slowing down but by employing a technique to minimize the issue and engaging a superior mental toughness.
After the racing season (or maybe during the season depending on Coach Hill) I would like to start having a few workouts a month that are nearly impossible to complete. Workouts that would create tears in my eyes, which will require serious effort, so that I can start to develop that mental toughness of drawing on the pain and completing the goal regardless. We shall see what Coach Hill thinks and/or puts together for me.
Either way . . . there is more running in my future!