This past weekend, I did something that I could have never seen myself do. I went running, specifically, I ran a half marathon. Okay, I know most of you are thinking that this isn’t much of a challenge, it is actually relatively easy. Let me tell you, I am not built for running. I recently (this past year) started liking to run, since I felt so great afterwards. My running consisted of running at a decent speed and then walking; I’ve been doing this in every sport I’ve ever played: baseball, football, track, soccer. I decided to sign up for this half marathon about six months before the actual race and I told myself I would train, yeah right, my training was just running more often than I have in the past. I signed up with two friends (who eventually bailed on me) to keep my motivation levels up. Here’s the topper, I’ve never ran more than three miles without stopping before this race.
Being mentally strong is really hard nowadays, we have so many things that make us lazy. We have so many on-demand apps, (especially in San Francisco) that you don’t even need to think. I need to go somewhere? Uber. I need to eat? Postmates, Munchery, Cavier. I mean, there is an app for everything that can do everything for me, I don’t need to do anything myself. I could just sit in bed all day and watch Netflix. Where am I getting? There is a natural tendency for our brains to operate at a lower energy level. Why is this? Our brain really wants to be lazy, it wants to not use that much energy because of how much physical energy it uses. Think of it this way. For the average human, your brain takes up about 4% of the body’s mass, but it uses about 25% of the body’s energy. Your energy is gained by what you eat, how much you sleep, and various other reasons. When you brain can, it will essentially put itself into a “low power mode” by convincing you to use less of it. And your brain is always relaying messages from your body telling you to not use it to its limits. Our body’s do this because we were supposed to be hunters and gatherers, and our animal instincts tell us to survive. Our brains have adjusted to what is around us and tell us to use whatever makes our lives easier and keep ourselves from depleting our energy. It is crazy, because everything we know that we should be doing takes a lot of effort on our parts to do, and this is exactly why we want to do it; not everyone can and it is hard. It gives us a sense of accomplishment.
Okay, back to the half marathon. I signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon six months ago, barely trained, my friends bailed on me, and here I was—about to run for the longest period I have ever in my done in my life before (by over 10 miles). Now, I knew I was in shape; I’ve been lifting for years, and I’ve recently started biking more, but not in running shape. I knew this, and I would just have to push myself past my limits. It was going to be all mental, the body is really forgiving, and it lets you keep on pushing.
Before the race, I had two simple goals:
- Finish in under two hours
- Don’t stop running.
Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Remember one thing, when you make a goal, stick to it. Don’t make it unreasonable, make it attainable. I’m sure that you all have learned the acronym, SMART, when creating your goals, but just to hammer it in, I will list it here.
I won’t bother going into each letter, since you can read about that just about anywhere.
I arrived (via Uber, of course) at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, right near the entrance to Golden Gate Park where the second half of the marathon would take place. I was ready, bib on, music on, Nike app started, and freezing (it was pretty cold). BANG, the shot went off and I began running. I was weaving between people, and I started noticing some people already walking; this was before they hit the first mile!
What was going on? These people were in shape, it looks like they were prepared with clothing and all, and I’m sure they have done at least a little training (yes, I’m a hypocrite). And they even paid to run in this thing! I would hope that would at least give you some motivation to give it your all, it sure made me try my hardest. Their problem was that they weren’t mentally strong enough. Their brain was telling them to quit, and they did. When things get tough, what do you do? Do you keep pushing yourself, or do you take the easy way out and quit? Ask yourself this question and think of a scenario where you quit when things got tough. What would be the outcome if instead you decided to push yourself and stick it out?
Your body and mind can do some incredible things, and I truly realized it this weekend. For the first few miles of my half marathon, my body was telling me to quit. I was averaging just under 9 minutes per mile, and each mile it went up about 15 seconds for my average pace. This was not good, I would finish in over 2 hours at this pace and I wanted to take a break. I needed to change my mental mindset, get my mind off of quitting and running altogether. I began to blast my music, and change my mindset. I knew I could do this. I began to think of ideas, let my brain run its course in its happy place. Before I knew it, I was passing people left and right. My mile time consistently kept dropping, finishing with an average time of 8:27 per mile. I even sprinted at a 4 minute pace for the last fifth of the half marathon, and I didn’t stop once. I had done it, all thanks to putting myself in the right mental mindset.
What is stopping you? Usually there is something mental blocking you. We have so many distractions in today’s society where you can hide behind a computer and believe you are making progress or doing something, when in reality, you are not. We have Netflix, Facebook, social media, and so much more; there are distractions everywhere.
You know you aren’t mentally strong enough. Do something to change it, I guarantee you will live a much happier life if you do. You are in control of your own life.