Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I Ran the 9th Mile Second

Sometimes, even for a regular runner, there is that workout that looms ahead, being all intimidating and ominous and messing with your head. For me, it was the nine miles I needed to run last weekend in preparation for the Mardi Gras Half Marathon. I've been adding one mile a week for the past month or so, which when you break it down is not that big of a deal. It's, like, two and a half songs. A measly 10 tenths of a mile. About 15 furtive glances at my Garmin, and roughly an extra ten minutes of running. Big whoop. When I look at it in those kinds of terms, it's a lot easier to face. But sometimes I still get nervous and wonder, can I really do that?

The 9-miler was making me nervous. I don't know why, because I had not had any bad runs and in fact had been having some really great workouts. I knew I wanted to stick to an 8-mile route that I had recently had good luck with, and just tack on an extra mile. And that's when I thought of a nifty little way to make my nine miles feel more like 8: I ran the 9th mile second.


I looked at it this way: adding another mile on to an already taxing 8-mile run just seems mean to me. I'd just be thinking about it the whole time anyway, psyching myself out over nothing. Putting it in the middle works better, but about 1.5 miles into my run, there is a good spot to make a quick detour, go out and back for a mile, and get back on the route. I decided to make that my 9th mile. By getting it over with at the beginning of my run, I was quickly back in 8-mile territory, which I was completely comfortable with.

I know, it's a little nutty and delusional. But it worked! I ran the 9th mile second, and the rest of the run was a piece of cake!

It reminded me that most of fitness is mental. Yes, our bodies get stronger and more conditioned and physical changes occur, but the process that gets us to that point is 100% mental. By running that 9th mile while I was still fresh, and convincing myself that it was over and out of the way and I was just on a regular run after that, it freed me from feeling pressured to do anything other than keep putting one foot in front of the next. 

If you have mental hurdles to get over, get creative in the ways you approach them. Do what you can to turn them into bite-sized pieces (one song, six mailboxes to pass, 100 steps, etc.) to make them easier to manage. Or, rearrange your thinking so you do the hard part first and the rest is easy! It worked for me and now 10 miles is something I am looking forward to.

Play some mind games today: get out there and get healthy!

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