Exercising the Mental and the Physical

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Training
Tags: ,

I got passed on the trail this morning.

I.  Got.  Passed.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, there are PLENTY of runners in Austin who can hand me my lunch on a daily basis.  Older runners, younger runners, men, women, kids – no doubt about it.  With the exception of the Run for our Heroes Shadow Run 10K the summer before last where I came in first place overall – I am always passed.

But over the last 3-4 years training on the Brushy Creek Trail behind our home I have never been passed, until this morning and it was a good thing.

I left the house today upset at myself for running yesterday’s workout much, much too hard.  I wanted to run something around 7:20-7:25 pace and I could not find my rhythm.  No matter how many times I told myself, “slow down, you are going to hard” I couldn’t make myself do it.  I ended up running the 8.3 mile loop at 7:07 pace.  That might not sound like too big a deal compared to goal pace of say 7:20 on the fast end – but it is huge.

:13 X 8 miles is a 1 minute and 44 second mistake.  If I make that same mistake in New York in 10 days my race will be over before mile 15.  That is a fact, not an opinion.  O.V.E.R.

So today I was determined to run my recovery workout as intended.  7:50 – 7:55 min./mile pace – not a single second faster.

I left the driveway, locked in to easy pace and kept the needle right there.  It was a struggle as my 7:56 opening mile “felt like” I was running closer to 9:00 min./mile pace – it was increasingly difficult to keep my legs from falling into a quicker cadence.  I reined them in and kept ticking off nice smooth and easy miles one after the other.

At mile 4 I reached the lake at Brushy Creek park and over my right shoulder I heard the crunching of the granite trail.  As I looked to my right a young high-school aged runner slid past me and thundered away from me up the hill.

For a second I thought about following, I may have even taken two or three strides before I came to my senses and I fell back into rhythm.

“Let him go” I thought to myself.  “You have far bigger fish to fry in 1o days”.

And with that I focused on the trail in front of me and followed the route back to the house.

6.2 miles  – 48 minutes and 55 seconds – 7:50 pace.


I thought a lot about that young runner over the last two miles and how in New York I am going to have to stay within myself from start to finish.  I will have never been in a larger race, even Boston and the crowds from Hopkinton to Boylston Street will not have prepared me for what I am going to encounter at the New York Marathon.

I will need to remember the mantra that I have come to embrace for this race.

“Run the course, not the mile”.

Far too often in marathons I have caught myself obsessing about each individual mile.  How many I have run to that point, how many are remaining.  Did that mile feel better or worse than the last?  Did I slow down?  Was it because of the hills or am I bonking?  What do I need to run this next mile at to get back on pace?  Etc., etc., etc.

Those are all negative thoughts, ones that once they creep inside the head of the marathoner, he or she is now battling more than just the course.  They are now battling their own demons of marathons past, their own expectations for that race and the weight of their goal time can come crashing down upon them.

Well not me.  Not this time.  I’m going to run the course, not the mile.  Focus on where I am at that point and only at that point.  The miles that are behind me are done – not a thing I can do about them.  The ones that lie ahead I can only run one at a time.  I’m going to run my race, block out the other runners who may be passing me by and keep running until I reach Central Park.

At the park I am going to take an evaluation of how much gas I have left in the tank.  I will be inside of the final 3 miles at that point and I am going to meter out my remaining fuel and energy so that when I reach Columbus Circle and all that remains is the final .20 miles I want to have basically nothing left.  Running on fumes at that point when I make the final turn I am going toward the finish line I am going to summon the strength that somehow only comes to a runner when they are starting their final kick.

In my best races I have run unafraid.  Knowing that the last bit of energy, motivation and stubbornness would be there for me.  As the legs churn faster than they have in hours, they oddly hurt less. 

It is like those legs who a few miles earlier were screaming in protest now decided that they too want to finish this thing.

With a final stride it will be over.  Hopefully the time will match the effort in New York and the accomplishment will match the expectation.

Being passed on the Brushy Creek Trail 10 days before race day may have been the best thing that could have happened to me.  Time to get the mind and the body right to run the race of our life.

  1. Jodi H. says:

    Amazing post Joe! I think the best thing you told me before Columbus was to not think about how many miles I had run or how many I had left….just enjoy each mile and enjoy the experience and that I did! The Big Apple has nothing on you!! Go get ’em Joe! I will be following!!

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