Life's little adventures, accompanied by a running watch

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mental Toughness Training


Yesterday, I ran a 20 mile training run.  Alone.  Solo.  Just me, myself, and I.  Don’t get me wrong, I love training with friends and do so often.  But I also make sure I have some solo longer runs woven into my training plan.  Because in addition to increasing mileage, tempo runs, speedwork, and hill repeats, I believe training for mental toughness trumps them all.

Fortunately for me, I’ve never bought into the “loneliness of the distance runner” theme.  When I run by myself, I’m never lonely.  In fact, I look forward to the sound of my breathing, my footsteps, and my frequent internal conversations.  Although I love music, I’ve never run with an iPod and will likely not do so anytime soon.  During my bachelors and masters programs, my long runs provided a healthy flame that fueled my creativity.  During stressful times, long runs also remind me of perspective; things just don’t seem so bad when I return from my run.  So the quiet of a solo long run clears my head in a way no other activity can.

Some of the strategies that get me through a solo 20 miler –

  • I try to map out the most appropriate course
  • I visual the “before the run” and “during the run”
  • I eat/drink in preparation (in advance)
  • I get myself excited about it (fake it ‘til you make it!)
  • I break down the course in my head
  • I plan ahead with ample water stops
  • I plan ahead to have husband check on me (whenever possible!)
  • When I’m hurting, I dial it back and remind myself that pace is not the goal on a 20 miler
  • I stop when I have to – but also don’t beat myself up for it
  • I remind myself that solo training helps when I’m running solo on race day


When I’m alone with myself at mile 23 of a marathon, feeling like my legs have 50 lbs weights strapped to them, wishing I could just be done, and wondering why I’m there in the first place, I have my solo long run memories to get me through it.  It’s not enough to say “Dig deep Lisa”; the fact is, I gotta have something to dig from.  And because I have the memory to draw from in training, it comes a lot easier when I need to push myself in the actual marathon.

I’m no coach and I’m no elite runner.  What I am is a woman who tries to achieve balance in life and in running.  I have lots of things to practice and don’t always get them right.  But once my head’s in the game, my feet are happy to follow.



5 comments:

  1. Hi Lisa

    Saw your posts on Michelle's blog and looked at your blog. I hear ya on the solo long run- got to experience it out there alone in order to "get there" on marathon day. Several of us are training for the Rock N Roll Savannah Nov 5th and it's been especially draining for me trying to train in the heat and humidity of the south (moved from Maine less than 2 years ago). In fact, I was starting to wonder if long distance running for me might have to be a "thing of the past". Kept waiting for that 1 good run again- happened yesterday with a 15 miler. Keep up the running and the blogging! See you at a marathon some day!

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  2. You impress me. Love this post. xoxoxo..

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  3. "It’s not enough to say “Dig deep Lisa”; the fact is, I gotta have something to dig from." Yes to that!

    I like knowing that I can run alone, without music, in hot weather, on hills, etc., because I may need to do that in a future race. Yay for staying strong for 20 miles!

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  4. I think it definitely makes us stronger for sure Tina! Continued good training vibes to ya!

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