Ever wonder if someone you know is a potential elite runner, but just never took up the sport? Chances are, there are probably lots of folks out there who have the potential to be come Olympic caliber runners, but simply never became interested in running as a sport.
Along the same lines, is it possible that you yourself have more potential than you know? Sure, you train pretty hard, and do the right things, but is there something missing that could help take you to the next level?
Chances are the answer is yes, and the missing component has everything to do with the mental aspect of running/racing. To say that the mind plays a big role in your race outcomes is an understatement.
“To get better, you have to do something different; something new,” says Dr. Stan Beecham, author of Run with your Body; Race with your Mind. Beecham asserts that most runners let how their bodies feel dictate the way they run. Now we’ve all been taught to “listen to your body,” and that is not a bad thing. You should always be conscious of whether or not you are coming down with an injury or aggravating an old one.
But if we all just listened to our bodies, then we wouldn’t race, would we? Because racing brings you out of your comfort zone, and your body may be telling you to quit.
That’s the angle Beecham is coming from. “You run with your body—it’s a physical act—but you race with your mind. Racing is a mental activity,” he says.
The point is, racing is completely different from simply running. During a race, every runner out there hurts at one point or another. It’s not just you. Now here’s where it gets interesting. When you’ve got one mile left of a 5K, or three miles left of a half-marathon, and you’re hurting, do you allow yourself to make an excuse for slowing down? Or do you make a promise to yourself that you’ll see it through.
Beecham contends that’s the difference between OK athletes and really good ones. The OK athletes fall into the trap of making excuses and slowing down, while the really good ones stick to the promise they made to themselves: “Don’t give up, and make this race count!”
Virtually all running experts agree that racing is an intensely mental sport. You ARE going to hurt—after all, you’ve chosen distance running as your sport. The difference is how you deal with that pain. A lot of it comes down to the belief that a faster race is possible. Why else did so many people begin running under four minutes for the mile, once Roger Bannister broke it for the first time in 1954?
If you think you’ll race slow, you probably will. But if you believe you can drop 30 seconds off your 5K, then, yes, there’s a good chance you’ll make it happen. It’s all about breaking through mental barriers—and keeping the promise you made to yourself.
Upcoming races: Saturday, November 2, Wurst 5 Mile Run 8:00 a.m. at Landa Park in New Braunfels. Run for the Water 10 Miler Sunday, November 3 at 7:30 a.m. Starts and finishes at Cesar Chavez east of Lamar Blvd. in downtown Austin.