That’s a tough distance. It isn’t long enough to get out of “The Suck” and actually enjoy a run, and it isn’t short enough to see the finish and have the comfort of knowing that it will all be over very soon. It takes a little more time than that.
Today, Aggie asked me about helping her get over the anxiety, and, I probably gave the worst advice I could give. I said that the mile is a ‘suffer-fest’ and you just have to accept that it’s going to suck and do it anyway. That is all true BUT, there are ways to get out of your own way.
The first one ties in to what coach was saying today – talking about hard things from a position of strength and positivity. Lie if you have to; beg, borrow and steal, but you have to be able to hide your breath and walk tall, even when it hurts. Listen to the story you are telling about yourself. Are you saying – ‘I get anxious!’, ‘It’s SO hard!’, ‘I’m no good at this kind of thing!’? Or are you saying, ‘I face my fears!’, ‘Even when it’s hard, I’m harder!’.. ‘I’m actually not bad at this!’. Keying in on that self-talk and changing it, whether you feel it or not, will still give you an edge. Just like coach was talking about today.. put all your positives on the negatives too and walk that shit. If you don’t, then the negative story will win, it will scare you, it will break you and it will eat you.
The second is to distract yourself somehow. Pretty much every run that I’ve really pushed myself involved having a mantra – a place I can escape to and buffer against the pain and quitting-thoughts that are trying their damndest to take over. At times, that mantra has been something inclredibly simple like, “I can.. I can.. I can..” and sometimes that mantra has been the weirdly comforting thought that the pain I’m feeling right now is proof that I’m getting stronger. I’ve done vizualizations where positive energy was focused into a thread of white light and I held onto that thread, focused on that thread, and pushed away the hurt as I kept my legs moving – thinking of nothing else and gaurding against any other thought than that bright white thread of positive energy. Might sound weird, but I’ll take weird when it works.
A couple of times recently, my mantra has been to ask myself, “Can you suffer some more?”. I’ve yet to find that I can’t push myself a little more.
You can also count your steps to 100, over and over. I think the key is to find something that doesn’t make you think too hard or in depth, but at the same time, is enough to occupy ALL your thoughts to the exclusion of the negative thoughts: ‘this hurts’, ‘I can’t do this!’, ‘I’m in trouble here..’ and so on. And you never really know what your mantra is going to be. I’ve gone into races thinking that ‘this’ was going to be my mantra and what I would use, only to have something else bubble to the foreground and take over.
So remember! Imagine a version of yourself that isn’t afraid of the mile, isn’t afraid of running hard when you can’t see the finish line, and doesn’t get anxious what they get in a hard spot. Now do your best, and be that person.