"They" say that endurance running is 50% mental and 50% physical. You obviously have to train your body for it but you also have to train your brain. You have to find mental strategies that will get you through the tough spots that you'll inevitably experience on a longer haul. Sometimes those mental strategies involve rewards, sometimes they involve just getting to the next kilometer and sometimes, well, they involve a whole other level of imagination. The crazy way my brain works is evident in this blast from the past. This is the final installment from my first half marathon hat trick in 2000: The Canadian International Half Marathon, which is now known as the Good Life Marathon.
Well, this is it. My last little ditty this year. Whew. It's done, over, finito. I completed my half-marathon hat-trick and let me tell you it wasn't easy. Rising at 6 am on a Sunday morning isn't exactly my most favourite thing but I managed to drag my sorry, groggy butt out of bed and scramble over to Yonge and Bloor to catch the vomit comet that would take me to the start line of my illustrious third (and final) half marathon this year, the Home Depot Half Marathon (also known as the Canadian International Half Marathon). The weather was great running weather, not too cold and a slight breeze and NO sun. Yet for some odd reason I brought my sunglasses instead of my hat. Go figure.
The race started just north of Mel Lastman Square. I was pretty calm considering my I was totally unprepared for this race training wise. I hadn't run 21.1K since August 27th and my training routine since then had been next to non-existent. I knew I could run the distance it was just a question of how long I could keep the pain at bay. I knew my lungs were up to the challenge but I wasn't so sure about my legs. But in typical Phaedra fashion, I throw caution to the wind and say "aaaah what the hell"...so I hurt for a few days. Big deal. The race was pretty much all downhill anyway. No worries.
At 8:45 am sharp, the siren went off and we started out. The route was packed with people cheering. We ran straight down Yonge Street. I knew this would be a "rolling route" but that the majority of it would be downhill with the exception of "The Beast" a.k.a Hog's Hollow at Yonge and York Mills. I had met The Beast before so I knew what to expect. I conserved as much energy as I could on the downhill so I could tackle the uphill onslaught without hurling when I got to the top. The second time around was much easier than the first. It still hurt mind you, just not as much. With that hill out of the way I figured the rest of the race was a piece of cake. All downhill. I was feeling good and I was running surprisingly fast (under a 5 min per km pace). I motored along taking the occasional walking break at the water stations. I was feeling good, oh ya, I could go on for hours. This sis-tah had found her groove. That was 55 minutes into the race. That was at the top of Rosedale Valley Road. 5 minutes later it was all downhill from there.
At the bottom of Rosedale Valley Road I started to feel "the ache". That annoying ache in my knee that comes and goes from time to time. I kept going but slowed up my pace a bit. I figured, ah it will go away eventually. It was about 16k into the race that I realized uh-oh...this pain isn't going to go anywhere. And that was when the battle began.
Runners have all sorts of mental tricks to get themselves through tough times. I started by trying to distract myself. So I pictured the people infront of me running in their underwear. That turned out to be kind of a scary visual so I pictured myself lying on an floating dock in the middle of a lake on a sunny day. That worked for a bit. I then tried to think up little rewards for myself like "oh if I just make it around that next bend, there will be a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Ice Cream with your name all over it". Unfortunately when I rounded that bend, Ben and Jerry were nowhere to be found. Completely at a loss for anymore mental tricks I began to visualize the battle going on in my head. On one side there was a little man named Matter and on the other side there was a little man named Mind. They were each wielding those foam pool noodles, and trying to beat each other into submission. Oh it wasn't a pretty sight let me tell you. The battle became VERY intense at about the 19K mark when Matter almost won out. But Mind isn't a quitter so Mind persevered despite Matter's constant cajoling about how he and his friend Pain were going to kick Matter's sorry ass. I guess all those threats of being beaten with a wet noodle finally got to Mind and he found it in him to deal the final blow to Matter in a sprint to the finish line. The time as I crossed the line: 1:47:59. My best time yet. In the worst shape I've been in, I run my best race. Go figure.
Now I think I will go and make friends with my couch, give my shoes the break they deserve and put Mind and Matter in their respective corners till next time.
That's all folks, it's been a blast. Tune in next year as I attempt to run my first marathon.