Someone recently asked me what I think about when I'm running. It's a question I hadn't been posed before and it occurred to me that much of the time it is thinking that I specifically try to avoid when I'm out on the road. I've often described running as my form of meditation and in the same way that meditation seeks to clear and quiet the mind, I frequently seek the same thing when I run.
I often try to focus on my breathing, my turnover , etc. Most of the energy I'm not spending on moving is spent on tuning into the messages my body is sending me. It's rare that I'm ever mulling over personal problems, working through issues, or solving quandaries while out on the road.
While it's frequently the case that I'm not pondering or contemplating much when I'm out on the road (other than how my body is feeling), there certainly are cases when I deviate from this. Perhaps the best example of this occurs when I'm particularly fatigued and fighting to keep it together. Having a vivid imagination often proves to be quite an asset. I will sometimes imagine that I'm in the midst of a particularly competitive race and close to winning or running a PR.
This technique has helped me on numerous occasions push through runs that I otherwise would have cut short. I even go so far as to imagine commentators commenting on the progression of the race, the strength of the field, etc. It sounds a bit crazy even as I write this, but it has worked and I would encourage anyone to try it the next time their energy is waning. It's not too different from what we did as children imagining ourselves pitching in the 7th game of the World Series in the bottom of the ninth inning with everything on the line.
The other technique I've used before is to remind myself that I've endured worse. If I'm feeling like I'm ready to pack it in, I remind myself of the time I ran a 20 miler and my legs were chafed so badly they were bleeding. I remind myself of the time I ran 15 miles through frigid wind and hail. Certainly there have been experiences in our lives independent of running that have been more painful than ANY long run. I point to these experiences and remind myself of what I AM capable of overcoming. This technique often provides me with that second wind I need to keep things going.
But, the most gratifying moments out on the road occur when my mind is devoid of any real substantive thought and it truly feels like I am just existing in the moment. There is something profoundly peaceful about these moments. As I've said to some of my clients, it's unfortunate that humans were not born with the gift of flight, but we can run and sometimess when you do it right, it feels like you're flying.