Running Lessons

Socks drenched from a early morning run in the soaking rain. September 2012.

Running isn't physical. It's mental.

Trust me. Any runner--especially the professional athletes--will back me up on this. Your mind gives up long before your body does. Even if you're in killer, elite shape, you can psych yourself off your best possible race. And if you're a beginner, your body will typically take you farther than your mind.

"Running is 80 percent mental." –Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon champion


  • What's the old saying? "A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step." Countless days, I don't want to run. I talk myself into the first step by promising to stop after mile one or two if I'm still not feeling it. Know what? I rarely quit midrun.
  • There are days when the entire miserable distance hurts. Even my skin aches. How do I keep going? I remember how good it feels to get the run done. And that the bad days are often followed by really, truly amazing days.
  • Doesn't matter the length of the run--sprint, 10K, marathon--it feels like a long haul when you're in it. I may have run the route and the distance, but each fraction of a mile is a new experience. I need to keep in mind the big picture while remembering that getting through the here and now--no matter how hard it is--is the only way I'll reach my goal.

Perseverance is everything.

Running has toughened my mental endurance as much as my cardiovascular strength. The tricks my mind has honed through tough runs have gotten me through experiences that have nothing to do with running: brutal breakups, traumatic decisions, grueling business negotiations, friendships gone sideways, deaths of people I've loved, and family rifts.

Just like running, life is a mental game. Careers, relationships, marriage, parenting--and on and on? All long hauls. Want to succeed in making them the best they can possibly be despite setbacks, weeks you second guess it all, times you just aren't feeling it? Get through the moment with the big picture in mind, remember that good days follow bad days, and don't forget that sometimes the first step is the hardest.

You have more in you than you think. Believe.

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Reader Comments (3)

It's really true.

At least up until the point where your physical goes "hey, remember how I can't handle heat? I'm going to pass out now."


September 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

There is an old Indian fable about three beings walking along a path and arriving at a river. All three are thirsty and drink from the river.

One was a god, and he drew liquid from the river and he drank the purest ambrosia; the next was a common man, and he drank regular river water; and the last one was a demon, and he drank filth and mud.

Why do I mention this?

Basically the river is life and whatever we put into the river we draw back out of it. We can put in glad and heartfelt effort into life and draw back the benefits and rewards that such efforts merit. We can skate along and do neither too little nor too much and draw out a regular life, and of course we can put little to no effort and find nothing but mud.

When you put as much effort into your running as you do your life and you do so gladly because it's what you believe in doing then you will receive back the sweet ambrosia that you so richly deserve.


Those socks are ruined.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Pora

Ha! True that, Melissa. Of course, I've also let the heat psych me out before my body would have actually been affected, too...

And William, the socks are fiiine. What's a little rainwater, eh? ;)

September 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterLeslie Farnsworth

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