Marathon Series: Mental Barriers

Wednesday 26 August 2015 by

Running, Marathon training, Fitness, #HoBFitness

Welcome back to week thirty three of my Marathon Series, as I blog my way to a marathon – from beginner to 26.2 miles. This week, we’re talking about mental barriers.

The further I go, the harder it gets to just get out of the door. For three weeks, I avoided my 26km run because it freaked me out. I originally posted this on my Facebook wall in an attempt to work out some of those demons:

Emotional (and slightly boring for non-runners) post: today I ran just under 26km (that’s just over 15 miles). This was 3 weeks later than I originally planned, and I had a bit of a mental block about it – the distance freaked me and I was putting it off for so many reasons, none of which I was admitting to myself. I’ve only ever run half marathon distance (the last time I ran so far, it was only a kilometre over the half-marathon requirement so didn’t feel so bad). A full marathon is 42km, and this is getting towards two-thirds of the way there. I find running on my own really hard – even with music – and I get terrible pre-run jitters which often leave me in a heap on the floor before I go. But I decided that it would have to be done if I was ever to reach a marathon distance. I chose a long playlist and set off. I had my usual 3km block where it hurt and I wanted to go home, and then again at 14km, as I ran past my house for the second loop. By 18km I hurt – my feet, my legs, my chest. I could feel my head dropping and I was starting to feel desperate. At 23km, I had to stop for a long time to cross a road and the lactic acid burned through my thighs and I ran the next kilometre swearing blue murder (I’ve never hated motorists and traffic lights so much). When I finally reached home, my legs were in such agony I just curled on the floor and cried. I missed my running buddy such a huge amount – because I couldn’t share the pain or the pride I felt in having done it. It took me 20 minutes and two pints of water before I could move properly again. I often joke about my running – that I must be crazy and that it is taking over my life. I hate it and love it in equal measure, and I talk about it endlessly. But if this feeling is even half the feeling I will get when I cross the finish line on 25th October, it will all be worth it. And I will never do it again. I’m raising money for the Stroke Association because of my granny. But it was only today that I truly realised that that’s not the only reason I am running the marathon: I am running it for myself. I am running it for all the years suffering from mental health issues. I am running it for all the times my body didn’t do what I wanted it to. I’m running it because I am strong, and I am powerful, and my body is doing amazing things. Even carrying me 26km so I can lie on my kitchen floor and scream with the pain. I can do that. And I can win. Bring it on.

See, here’s the thing. We all have inner demons. We all have mental barriers that stop us – or try to stop us. And it is only through sheer will that we can push our way through. It takes strength and bravery. I don’t have any conclusion to fix the mental barriers: find a motivating factor, reward yourself at the end, talk to the @UKRunChat community; they’re all great ideas, but it will only be you that finds your way through. They don’t call it The Wall for nothing: it will try to block your path and you can let it, or you can fight it. Last weekend I ran 30km at it wasn’t great: I got (hopelessly) lost and I felt like I had got it all wrong; I know that means that this weekend’s run is going to be super difficult. Those mental barriers are back, and it’s going to take a lot to push through them again.

What are your mental barriers? How do you get past them?

Don’t forget to let me know how you’re getting on, using the hashtag #HoBFitness. And check back in a soon when we’re talking about the things they don’t tell you about long distance running!

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