"Running is like getting drunk in reverse. With drinking, it feels great at first, but then you start feeling awful. With running, you feel awful at first, but then, after you finish, you feel great."
- Running with the Kenyans by A.Finn
Running isn't always fun. Pushing your body's limits can be uncomfortable and hard work. The biggest obstacle is usually your mind. It sends messages like "I can't", "This is too hard" and "Who really cares?"
Find a way to silence your mind, and a sense of strength and freedom will course through your body. You return to a primal state, intimately feeling your heart beat, lungs heave and sweat pour. Endorphins release and you feel like a champion. That feeling rarely happens to me while running, but most always, I feel it when I finish my run.
I will admit to being addicted to that "Runner's High". It is the reason why I, like many of you, push through pain and past limitations. Running is our route to enlightenment - albeit a route paved with bumps and obstacles. To succeed, you need to have willpower, focus and drive. You need to trust that your body is truly stronger and more capable than your mind thinks it is.
A secret of many runners to trick their mind into turning off negative thoughts is to repeat a mantra. It enables you to relax and run on pure, raw emotion. When she won the NYC Marathon in 2007, Paula Radcliffe chanted "I love you Isla" over and over (Isla, her daughter, was just 9 months old). Meb Keflezighi sang strains of Aerosmith's Dream On and chanted "Boston Strong, Meb Strong” as he pushed through the pain to win the 2014 Boston Marathon in honor of those who lost life and limb in the bombing the year before.
Joan Benoit Samuelson pulled her hat down low and focused her eyes ahead with a look of steel as she pushed unrelentingly to win the gold medal in the 1984 Olympic Marathon. Her philosophy on running is that she doesn't dwell on it - she just does it.
A few years ago I participated in an IntenSati class which combines aerobic exercise with positive affirmations. At first I thought it was kind of hokey and silly, but as the intensity amped up, I felt more powerful and had a blast as the puddle of sweat pooled on the floor around me. By focusing on the positives ("I am strong!"), I was able to push past negative thoughts that can limit my performance. Once my mind and body began to believe the words, physical motion became driven by emotion, taking my workout to a whole new level.
As you ramp up your training and start racing this fall, harness the power of positive thinking. Don't let your mind wander and muddle itself with negative thoughts. Steel your eyes, dig deep and focus on a positive statement. Get lost in that thought. Feel the power. You can do it!