OK – these top 5, top 10, top whatever lists are fun to put together. So here we go: here are my top 10 running mantras for long training runs…..
10. “Getting closer…” I use this one when I’m only 4-5 miles into a marathon. It’s supposed to keep me positive. Does it? Probably not – I have nine more below this one!
9. “Keep Calm and Carry On” I need a corny mantra – and this is it. It can be used at any time during the race. On a scale of 1-10, this mantra’s effectiveness is about a 3. So why do I use it? Because it’s English – and I say it with a British accent, which makes it fun. Completely shaggadelic.
8. “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” I normally use this one when I’m working with my hands (painting, cooking, etc.). It works when I’m painting. Does it work when I’m running? Ummmmm……well…….let’s go to #7.
7. “Stored energy.” OK – seriously, I really do this one. I use it early in the marathon, when the crowds are cheering along the course and I want to speed up. Instead up going faster, I store up the energy that the crowd gives me and I maintain my steady pace.
6. “Elbows back.” This is one that I actually use all of the time. When I first began running, I didn’t swing my arms. Seriously. They hung from my sides like two logs of genoa salami hanging from the ceiling of an Italian deli on Arthur Avenue. Do you know how dumb that looks? Jog in place in front of a mirror without moving your arms. Yup – THAT’s how dumb I looked. My coaches have programmed me to make sure that I work on my arm swing, throwing my elbows back fluidly as my legs turnover. As your arms go, your legs go. Keep your arms moving and your legs will follow.
5. “Nope – not yet.” I wish I didn’t need this one, but I use it all too often. My head continuously tells my legs to slow down and walk for a bit. For me, momentum is everything – and if I walk I’m screwed. So every time The Tool (that’s the name I’ve given to all of my inner self-doubt and negativity) begins to tell me to slow down and walk, I quietly tell myself “nope – not yet”. It’s simple…and it works for me.
4. “Retreat hell.” That’s the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. The story goes that during World War I this battalion was sent to France to fight. During a fierce battle, a French commander told the battalion lieutenant to retreat. The lieutenant’s response: “Retreat? Hell, we just got here”. That’s the kind of attitude I need to have early on in the race. 21 miles left….17 miles left…..16 miles left…the course can make you feel like quitting. Retreat? Hell, I’m just getting started.
3. “Breath – don’t break.” I know. It’s simple. Not exactly motivational. But I actually need to remind myself to breath as deeply as I can, especially during the early stages of the marathon. If I focus on my breathing during a race, I can hold my pace for a much longer period of time. Once I get distracted – and that ALWAYS happens to me – my breaths get shorter and shorter. Then I get winded. Then – at some point – the race breaks me. I’ll learn to stay focused for the whole 26.2 distance at some point…but I’m not there yet. Lots of work to do.
2. “Facta non verba”. Oh yeah – that’s right – I’m busting out the Latin. Deeds – not words. This one works for me…plus it makes this Bronx kid sound slightly more educated when I’m mumbling this amid a pack of quicker runners.
1. “Focus and finish.” I use this for the last miles. It reminds me to dig deep – because that’s the only way to finish a marathon.
You run the first 10 miles with your body. The next 10 with your brain. And the last 10k is all heart.
Met Jeff Galloway twice this year thus far – he wrote a whole book on running motivation, which I really recommend. It’s called “Mental Training for Runners: How to Stay Motivated”.
After my horrid performance in Rockland County, New York, I felt like I needed to bounce back in a rather quiet, determined way. My September marathon was scheduled for the middle of the month in Dayton, Ohio. I have heard nothing but amazing things about The Air Force Marathon, and I was really looking forward to it; however, life gets in the way at times – and responsibilities elsewhere required me to cancel my reservations. So just like June, when I missed the Lake Placid Marathon, I was faced with a dilemma. I needed to keep my promise of a marathon a month – but I was now left without a race to run.
I enjoyed a relaxing, long Labor Day Weekend visiting family in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I even got to play a really fun round of golf with my cousin Dennis, on the Michigan University course. I hacked away at the ball for a few hours, actually hit 4-5 ok shots (the rest of my swings were downright embarrassing – at one point a woodchuck literally rolled his eyes at me as i attempted (in vain) to escape the rough along the 8th fairway). As poorly as i played, i could have cared less because laughed the whole way through. good company has a way of making you forget some of the things that sat sour in your mind. Spending time with family was just the type of magic elixir I needed to shake off my lousy August performance.
Upon my return, I felt that spark come back. I had been feeling a bit down due to my inability to push through a rather tame injury during the Self Transcendence Marathon. I expected much more from myself than I actually delivered. Now that the spark was back, I decided to capitalize on my new-found positivity and crank out 26.2 in the same manner as my June run. Time to completely exorcise the demon.
The Saturday after Labor Day, I decided to leave my apartment really early and run at least 13 miles before the beginning of my Team for Kids weekly long training run. I would then join up with the team as a mentor, and run with them for my last 13-14 miles. I woke up that Saturday morning…well…in the words of John Geutfriend (former CEO of the old Solomon Brothers) “ready to bite the ass off a bear”. (I think that term is another way of saying “I’m all fired up”…but I’ve been dying to use that quote – so there you go).
I grabbed a water bottle – I chose not to use my hydration pack because there are water fountains all over Central Park – dosed myself with Body Glide, grabbed my studly sunglasses and off and headed to the park.
I paced myself as I made my way along the outer loop of the Park. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, Central Park is pretty hilly in spots, and I am VERY anti-incline. So pacing conservatively early on allowed me to save energy for the second loop. By the time I had completed my two loops, it was almost time to meet up with Team For Kids near the Columbus Circle entrance of the park. 13 miles down in 2 hours, 6 minutes. I shocked myself – that was a personal best for the half marathon distance.
The team broke up into three groups: those that run sub 9 minute miles (I wish!), those that run approximately 9-10 minute miles (I can do that for a 10k – but it’s tough for 20 full miles, and I had 13 down already), and those running 10:30 minute per mile or greater. I went with this last group, in order to maintain my momentum.
As our group made its way along the park’s Bridal Path, the energy generated by running as a team kept the spring in my legs long after the point where I expected to be fried. Early on I had one teammate that dealt with some nasty stomach issues (and boy do I have my MBA in THAT field!), so I slowed up and tried to coach her through it. I got her around one loop of the path, and then she made the decision to call it a day. A wise move. You can prepare as well as humanly possible for a long run…but you never know what your body has in store for you once you’re out there, doing your thing. Some days are fantastic, and some days aren’t. As a runner, you just have to be enjoy the good days, and learn from the bad ones. We parted ways, and I kept slowly chugging along.
As I watched her walk toward our team’s meeting area to pick up her bag, I thought back to my golf game in Ann Arbor. I hit a BUNCH of lousy shots. Ones that made the pigeons giggle and the squirrels nervous. But being with friendly people, on a perfect day, walking on a gorgeous course – my mistakes were forgotten almost instantly. My head simply stayed in the present. The 4-5 good shots that I did manage to slug – those are the only ones I can recall. In my years of studying the game of golf, I read a few books written by Dr. Bob Rotella. My favorite was “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”. Within it, Dr. Rotella talks about how the best players in the world develop a “shooter’s mentality” – the ability to forget the shots that went wayward, and focus on the successful ones. He also mentions that the best players work really hard at the game – they practice every type of shot, every day. They practice so much that, when it comes time to play a match, they trust their swing to do exactly what it normally does in practice. They “train it and trust it”. As I plodded along the path, attempting to catch the rest of my group, I decided that I needed to develop my own Shooter’s Mentality when it came to running. In order to do that, I need to train it and trust it – train my legs and trust that they can go the distance I tell them to.
As miles 21-22 were being reeled in, I decided to transfer from the Bridal Path to the outer loop of the park. I needed the last miles to be focused, and for that I needed to run solo. In my head, I reviewed prior performances this year. Some were good and others…not so much. But I finished each one that I began. There was my shooter’s mentality: I finish what I start. I’ve trained enough to trust my legs to get me at least 26.2 miles. Now all I need to do is improve. Mile 22 rolled into mile 23…..and suddenly I realized I was 24 miles into my run. I had begun to walk after talking water at each fountain along the loop, and it was becoming very hard to start running once I downshifted to walking. My shooter’s mentality came back again – you can do this. You can do this because you’ve done it many times before. That was the positive kick in the ass that I required.
The final 3 miles were spent at a VERY slow pace, with a big smile on my face. I looked at my watch as I neared the Boathouse on the east side of the park: 27.8 miles. Time to shut this thing down. I had never felt so good physically after a marathon. I think it’s because my head was in the right place.
Funny….one game of golf changed my mental chemistry.
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