Yesterday, I ran a 10 mile trail race and it was tough. By mile six I could feel huge blisters on my feet because I was wearing the wrong socks and the hills seemed never-ending.
But I got through it. I finished. OK, so I didn't run in a great time, but I got round and crossed the finish line. And that's what counts. It also taught me that I have the mental strength to get through.
So if you're ever out running and finding it tough, here are a five ways you can power on and get through to the end:
- Break the run down into smaller goals. Instead of overwhelming yourself with how far you still have to go, just focus on getting to the next mile marker and when you get there, congratulate yourself and work towards the next mile-marker. This is not the time to be thinking of the bigger picture, just work on smaller, more achievable targets. Once you get near the end, you can start focusing on what's left of the run...only 2 miles to go, only 1 mile to go, less than a mile to go, nearly there etc.
- Visualise a familiar run that you know you are good at. I often run the same three mile route and so instead of thinking about the run you are on now, visualise the landmarks you pass on your familiar route. Think to yourself, OK, I'm at the bridge (or church or pink house), it's only 5 minutes until I'll be at the traffic lights (or corner shop or school) and then after that it's only 5 minutes until I'm on the homeward strait.
- Use music to help you find your headspace or to set a beat to run or breathe to. Take the time to create a playlist of inspiring music – ideally with a fairly fast beat – and use this to help you take your mind off the pain and embrace your power to do this.
- Look up. If you look down, you'll just see your feet and by looking down, you might feel more down. If you look at eye level, you might accidentally catch someone else's eye and get embarrassed (or is that just me). But if you look up, you'll feel more 'up'. Just be careful to make sure you do look around you as well or you might end up running into a lamp-post or even someone else!
- While you're looking up and around, challenge yourself to notice something new about your surroundings. When you're walking or driving around, you are generally looking at things that are your height. If you look up, you'll notice the cloud formations, or a bit of interesting architecture on the buildings around you, or a funny pattern in the leaves of the trees around you. Even if you're running in an area that you are familiar with or on a route you know well, you will always notice something you've never seen before. And while you're busy noticing new things, you're not thinking about how hard you're finding it.
Of course, if you're finding it really tough or you have picked up an injury, it's not always wise to keep on going because you could do yourself even more damage. So if you have to stop, then do. But don't beat yourself up. Regather yourself for the next run and remember: the tough runs make the good runs even sweeter.
How do you keep going when you are finding running hard going? Do you have any tips to add to my list?