It is now less than one year until the start of the great big run - Perth to Adelaide / 6 weeks / 2600 kilometres !! ..and I am counting down the 'last 12 months'. It feels as if it took an age to get here, but also like it has crept up on me; all of a sudden I am acutely aware of the long, long list of actions and tasks that need attention other than just training my body.
There are a couple of reasons for this lapse in concentration - the first is COVID. I think many of us can agree that living through a pandemic has warped our sense of time. The second is complacency; having run a stupidly long distance before I had fooled myself into thinking 'I know what I am in for'.
And of course, there were / are all the distractions that life keeps throwing at me.
For those playing along at home - one of these 'distractions' has been an injury. A partial tear (snap) of the left hamstring tendon which left me struggling to walk, never mind run. Nearly 8 weeks later and I am running again (I never missed a day of training, it was just exceptionally modified) ... but I am not where I should be in my training progression /schedule. For most of the last eight weeks training narrowed to accommodate the mental aspect and I spent a great deal of time being uncomfortable.
Mental discomfort is an important part of endurance training. In 2018, Justin Ross wrote for Runners World...
'...mental toughness is a skill set, and execution without practice rarely—if ever—works. Practicing this skill must be incorporated into your training cycle in order for you to access it when it really counts on race day.'
He goes on to list 4 tips to build this 'toughness' ...
- Connect with the WHY
This is the easiest of the four, I know exactly why I am training for this run - if you're new here, it might less clear to you...in which case you might like to read some previous blogs:
- Find a WAY, not an excuse
Life offers up all manner of reasons to skip training, over the years I have learned to ignore them, without even giving it much thought. It is easier to just start than to battle the loud internal guilt later.
-Train purposefully in UNPLEASANT conditions
Not too difficult for running - I always run outside, early in the morning, no matter the weather - recently while not running I had to walk 10 k outside every morning before work. It was very wet, extremely cold and slow.
Now while running again- it is still wet, rainy, with occasional hail, sometimes a storm, and the wind can be enough to drive me mad.
Over summer, even the morning weather can be too hot, and with a hot dry wind - this is the worst kind of unpleasant for me.
Both of these two extremes take me back to the why. And the people I stumble across living rough in these conditions are a stark reminder that what I am putting myself through is only temporary; 'this too shall pass'
What might be less obvious however, is that five times a week I do auxiliary training at a gym and that this is the MOST unpleasant aspect of training for this great big run because I am extremely uncomfortable...and because I am so uncomfortable, to the point of nausea, I am more motivated to be there and get it done - to sit with the discomfort, almost dwell and slop around in the internal distress and anxiety of being a deaf introvert in a place that I feel I absolutely DO NOT belong....because if I CAN be there and feel all that, running the next morning feels like an absolute explosion of freedom.
No choice here - this great big run will take 42 days. Training in some compacity every day, usually multiple times in different ways is a non negotiable.
BUT other than the physical, there are opportunities every day to build mental toughness, and I hope that maximizing on these will pay off when I need it somewhere along those 2600 kilometres; making difficult decisions, being vulnerable when I don't want to be, making sacrifices - and being transparent about all aspects about Pup & Girl; the training, the reasoning, the planning, even the deeply personal elements I would otherwise keep to myself.