Semper Currens VI: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

Week Five Training Wrap-Up

If I could dream up a great week of running, this week would be it. I did all the hard workouts successfully, ran the longest run of the summer since the Boilermaker and met my weekly mileage goal, all during a gorgeous stretch of weather and with no problems other than a few sore muscles.

I want to bottle this week for consumption this winter.
The Week Ahead

Weekly mileages are starting to creep up. This coming week, we’ll go over forty for the first time, and from here on, we’ll be alternating between the high forties and the mid fifties until the main event. We’ll be feeling the the time crunch now, as we’ll be spending the equivalent of a whole work day each week training. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else, but I can say from experience the sacrifice is worth it, as hard work now pays huge dividends on race day and the days immediately following.

Feature o’ the Week: What Goes On In Your Mind?

Through the years, people have been asked me what I think about when I run and whether or not I get bored, especially as I don’t run with music.

The answer to the second question is: sometimes. Yesterday’s long run was, fortunately, not one of those times. Once I got into my groove, there was so much to see and experience. The purple loosestrife, black-eyed susans, forget-me-nots and tigerlilies were spectacular against their lush green backdrops, while the birds and crickets kept up a constant soundtrack to rival any MP3 playlist. There seemed to be a new surprise around every corner.

There is no substitute for being in the moment like this. If you can be mindful, and take in every experience as it comes at you, long runs can be incredibly uplifting and even spiritual.

But not every run is like that, and sometimes it’s hard to rein in your thoughts because SQUIRREL! Not that it’s a bad thing to let your mind wander. At times, especially early in a run, it’s good to let your mind go where it wants to, especially if you’re running after work and you need to process the events of the day.

But over long distances, when you have to fight fatigue and physical discomfort with mental toughness, it’s not a good technique. Here’s a few things I do to kill time and bring my mind back into focus.

  1. Focus on a traffic sign, mail box or similar object about 200 yards in the distance, concentrate on breath and posture and let the object draw you in. Repeat as necessary.
  2. Repeat a mantra that matches your cadence and that reinforces positive thoughts. “At this moment, at this second, at this minute, all is well” is one of my favorites. Silly? Perhaps, but at mile sixteen nothing is silly if it can keep you going. Trust me.
  3. Pray a prayer of thanksgiving. You don’t have to be religious to do this. Just give thanks for everything you have–your family, your life, the weather, your good fortune to be physically able to run. It will improve your spirits as well as take up some time.
  4. Work on something meaningful. I’m always looking for new ideas to develop my blogs (in fact, the idea for this week’s Semper Currens and the title came from a run about a week ago). I save up problems–personal, work-related, creative–that I want to think about for my long runs. But they have to be personal and meaningful, otherwise they won’t engage me enough.

Team Fox Update

If you’ve been reading Semper Currens regularly, or if you’ve found anything here of use, go to my fundraising page and make a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation and help eliminate Parkinson’s!

How do you keep focused and work through a tough moment in training, a race or in life? Leave a comment here, and I’ll feature it in the next Semper Currens.

About Bruce Pegg

I write about running, music and spirituality.
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