My thirteen-year-old daughter is currently training for her first half marathon. She’s run several 5k’s and a 10k over the years and wanted to try her hand at a half marathon this spring. Although she runs by herself during the week, she and I run at least part of our long runs together. I’ll run farther than she does so when she turns around to go back home, I keep running for another mile or so.
This past weekend, she and I were running together and I was a bit ahead of her, and was gaining ground as I ran downhill. I passed a man who was walking the other direction (towards me) and he said that I had startled him (but he was really nice about it). I told him there was another runner coming behind me and that it was my daughter.
When the man came upon my daughter, he said to her, “You can catch her. I know you can do it!” or something to that effect. That conversation was unbeknownst to me until my daughter mentioned it to me at home after our run. All I knew was she quickly caught up with me before I even reached the bottom of that hill I was going down and she was either right at my side or a couple of strides ahead of me for the rest of the run until it was time for her to turn around.
When she got home, I checked her mile splits on Strava and saw that she continued at the pace she was at when we saw the man and she even managed to speed up towards the end. Her last mile out of 11 miles was her fastest. This is impressive not only because she’s only run longer than 11 miles once, when she accidentally ran 12 miles; she was supposed to run something like 8 miles but got turned around and ended up running 12. This is also impressive because as I mentioned, she’s only 13 so she’s not a seasoned runner and has struggled with pacing herself on long runs by starting out too fast and slowing down for the last few miles.
All of this got me thinking about how much of a role our brains have in long-distance running. My daughter told me about how that man’s comment made her push herself harder for the entire rest of her run. We had only run about 1.5 miles when we saw him, so she pushed for 9.5 miles, which is no small feat for anyone.
Lately I’ve been reading some books about the power of positive thinking and how it effects us in running and life in general. I really enjoyed Deana Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run and have been applying some of the things she discussed to my runs. For instance, on a run about a week ago, it was really windy and as I was running into the wind, my quads felt tired. Instead of thinking, “This wind sucks. My legs are tired and I just want to be done with this run” I turned it around to “This wind is making my legs stronger” and I was able to finish my run on a more positive note.
Not that positive thinking alone will make you as fast as Deana Kastor. You do have to put in all of the hard work to get faster. Still, I think the power of the mind is so powerful and it can and does influence our bodies in so many ways we’re only beginning to understand.
What about you all? Are you a big believer in positive thinking or do you think it’s over-rated?