COLUMN: Marathon Training Becomes Game Of Mind Over Matter
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 19:02
“Mind over matter” has been my personal mantra ever since I can remember.
I think someone must have repeated the phrase to me when I was little as I was complaining about not being able to jump high enough to reach the monkey bars, and coincidently, the next time I tried, I was able to grab them and clamber across. Needless to say, I have believed in it ever since, as some kind of magic phrase.
When I say this phrase I do not mean telepathy or moving things with your mind. (Although I do think this phrase, when used correctly, can be just that powerful.) I do mean that if you think you can do something, you are much more likely to complete your goals.
There have even been scientific findings that prove my little mantra actually works. A Self-fulfilling prophecy is the idea that if you or the people around you believe (or don’t believe) you will achieve a goal, then it is more likely that you will (or won’t). This is all proof that you really can do anything you put your mind to.
Recently, though, I have discovered “mind over matter” in its purest form through my marathon training.
Let me preface this by saying I am by no means an avid runner, a health freak, a morning person, or any other image that pops into your head when you think of a marathon runner.
My mom is buying the over-priced Easter break plane ticket to watch me run the marathon, not necessarily to support me, but because she doesn’t believe I am actually going to do it.
Throughout the past 10 weeks of training, I’ve had to repeat my mantra to myself more times than I have in the past 10 years.
But one thing I’ve realized is that training has been a battle between my mind and the matter that is my body (more specifically my poor legs), not between my body and the pavement underneath my feet. It has always been a contest to see how long my mind can hold out, not how much my muscles can handle.
Because in the end, my mind—and nothing else—is controlling my muscles. The cold temperatures and snow that have drastically hindered my enthusiasm over the past few weeks don’t really control my muscles. It’s my mind telling me it’s too cold to walk to the Plex or run down Comm. Ave.
The fact that I read “16 miles” in this Saturday’s box in my training schedule doesn’t control my muscles either. It’s my mind trying to convince me it’s probably not even healthy for me to run that far a distance.
I’ve noticed the power of my mind and its effect on my body through my long runs versus my short runs. For example, when my training schedule calls for three miles, I struggle just as much between mile two and three as I do when the schedule calls for 16 miles and I reach mile 15—proof that if you tell yourself you are going to run three miles, you are only going to make it to three.
If anything, my past 10 weeks of training have reassured me that when I tell myself I am going to run 26.2 miles on the morning of April 21, I will be able to do it (but probably not a step more, unless, of course, I told myself I could).
Some trainers say running is 75 percent mental and 25 percent physical. The first woman to win the gold medal in the Olympic marathon event was quoted saying running is 80 percent mental. I’d go so far as to skew the ratio even more, because really, a long-distance runner is nothing without will power.
Maybe it was a coincidence that I was able to jump high enough to reach the monkey bars as soon as I was told that if I believed I could do it I could. What I do know is that it won’t be a coincidence when I cross the finish line in eight weeks to see my mom standing there in utter shock.
It will be because I did not let the power of my muscles get in the way of the power of my brain.