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Your Brain Tells you to Stop, But…

This marathon training season started out fabulous and then hit quite a road block. I keep thinking about about the race when I did it three years ago and how much I hated it. I very clearly remember those hills, the rain, and the cold. And more importantly I remember those last 2 miles. Mario jumped in right around mile 24 to cheer me across the finish line. For some reason, I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore and started walking. Mario kept telling me that yes, I could do it but either it was the pouring rain, the 40 degrees, or my throbbing legs- I needed to walk for a minute (or two). I missed Boston Qualifying that year by 29 seconds.What if I had just kept running?

November 4th has played out in my head 100 different ways. In one version of race day I go out too fast, too hard and pay for it starting right around mile 10 (that’s my least favorite version). However, my favorite version of race day is when I collapse at the finish line, having met my goal, and know that I literally gave it everything I had. That’s the one I’m hoping for.

Here’s some info that’s helping me get psyched up:

In 2001, Dr. Timothy Noakes did a study that found that cyclists who rode to exhaustion, still had plenty of oxygen in their muscles to continue pedaling. In other words, according to Noakes, the brain turns on the discomfort before you actually run out of fuel. This is a way to shield the body from injury. Your mind tells you to quit before your body is ready. This is good news because as long as I can stop listening to my brain, I can go a little faster for the race..

This may sound odd but whenever I do a race, and I am truly racing it, I want to cross the finish line in a state that’s like oh I think I’m going to collapse and possibly puke. I want to know that I couldn’t have given it one more ounce of energy and that I beat my brain telling me to stop. Honestly, there are only two races where I can say I have felt that way. The half marathon, AKA obstacle course (check out the recap) I did this past March and the 5 miler I won in July. I was in some serious pain when I crossed both of those finish lines and I had to talk myself through a lot of hard moments during those races. And although I didn’t collapse, I knew I gave it my all. That’s what this race day will be like 🙂 (hopefully).

I’m preparing myself for the hard miles and my brain telling me to stop right around the hills at mile 24. As long as I can remember that, according to the man who knows all things running, when my brain says stop, my body isn’t quite ready. It’s still got something to give.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yes, you have to be “all in” for a race. Over the past year or so I’ve been working on this. Often during a race that I am running particularly hard or am under prepared for, I get to a point where my mind tells me it is time to ease up.
    During 5K and 10K runs I started telling my self there were only a few miles to go so keep pushing as hard as you can.
    When I first started doing this is was difficult to defeat the defeated part of my brain. But as my times got better the positive reinforcement kelp making it easier for me to push through the pain, fatigue and despair that I sometimes felt.
    Now I am able to leave it all out there on the road. I still have moments of weakness but I have trained my mind to work through them and keep pushing.
    Even though this has helped my performance I’m still a middle of the pack runner, but I’m moving up in the pack! 😉

    October 24, 2012

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