Measuring is perhaps knowing, but not all ingredients for a long and successful running career can be measured. Heart rates, tempos and wattages are, of course, just one piece of the puzzle. The x-factor is perhaps the mental part.
You can do exercise tests with an oxygen mask on, fully covered with sensors, carefully monitor your heartbeats and calculate to the tenth of a second how fast you have to do your interval blocks. You would almost think that running is a scientific affair. Anyway, if that were the case, world records would be set every week, wouldn’t they?
Running is not a science
Running involves more than biology, chemistry and geography. Construction, training, weather conditions, terrain and subsoil; all important. But all those measurable factors together are still not everything that determines a successful running experience. If the head won’t cooperate, you can train until you cross your eyes, measure until you weigh an ounce, and buy the most expensive shoes; then it won’t be much. It should sit well between the ears.
Of course I’m not saying anything revolutionary. We as runners, especially as long-distance runners, know the importance of the mental. Anyone who listens to what the brain has to say during a 5K, 10K or marathon will have a hard time keeping up a pace or even crossing the finish line. You will have to use that same brain that tells you that you better go for a walk to tell your body that it is possible. You can continue at this pace, you can run through the last seven kilometers of the marathon. A strange paradox indeed.
A strong head
Mental strength is not only decisive during competitions or during a tough block in your training. The head also makes you feel like exercising, makes you enjoy running and – let’s face it – ultimately keeps you doing something for a long time. Doing something for a long time means consistency and that’s where the profit lies: if you want to become really good at something, you have to persevere for a long time and patiently.
So much for the theory behind a fresh head. Now the question; how do you keep running so much fun that you enjoy it, that you keep doing it for a long time and so – possibly – can continue to make that progress? Also great if you don’t want to make any progress, but just want to keep walking. Even then it is important to keep the fun in it.
Do something crazy
Back to the question of how you do that. A few tips.
Make it cosy.
Walk with others.
Do interval training with people who are slightly faster.
Do your long runs with people who are slightly slower.
Take the train to a place 20 kilometers away and walk back through the greenery.
Choose a day when you run a distance three miles longer than you’ve ever run.
Do an extreme workout with a few others that looks ridiculous on paper.
Walk to the other side of the country in a few days.
Don’t run for a week.
Do you never run shorter than a half marathon? Register for a 5 kilometer.
Do something crazy, live and keep walking.