Working on the Mental Part of Running and Being Thankful

This year I’ve been working on the mental aspect of running. Since I read Deena Kastor’s book,¬†Let Your Mind Run, I’ve been trying to get my brain to turn away from negative thoughts while I’m out running and turn them around to more positive or even neutral thoughts. Running in the summer heat and humidity has been a good challenge for me in this aspect. Instead of letting thoughts like, “It’s 93 degrees and I feel absolutely miserable. Why am I even bothering to try to run in this?” take over, I’ll try to put a spin on them and think things like, “Miles in the heat mean miles in the bank for my fall race” and “I can do this. Just one step in front of the other.”

On a recent run, there were two people in my life going through some pretty serious health problems, both of which were potentially life-threatening. One of these people used to be a runner, and would still be a runner if not for all of the health problems. In fact, he was a serious enough runner that he qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon several times (I’m not sure exactly how many times because he’s a humble man and has never really said just how many times but I know for sure it’s been more than twice).

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One of those 90+degree days where I had to remind myself why I was out there running!

I started thinking about this former runner when I was on a particularly hot and humid run, struggling to just get going. There were a dozen excuses I could come up with why I could just stop running right there and call it a day before I had even run a mile. I needed to run errands, it was hot, I needed to do weight-training at the gym, I hadn’t slept well the previous few nights so I was tired, and on and on. But then I started thinking about all of the reasons why I should run: ¬†because I could, my body was fully capable of pushing through the heat and humidity, because even a slow run is better than no run, and because I had a nice, cool water bottle waiting for me to add a Nuun tablet when I got to my car and I knew that would make me feel better after I had run.

Over the 19 years I’ve known this former runner, he and I have chatted about running quite a bit. Like I mentioned, he’s run the Boston Marathon a few times but he’s also run other well-known races like the Marine Corps Marathon, New York City Marathon, and many others. He had a running streak going where he ran every single day for many years. This man has held a high level science-related position in three different areas of the country, over-seeing a large group of other scientists at each area. In addition to his work-related duties, he raised two children along with his wife, who also held high-level positions in her career. If he wanted to find excuses not to run when he was younger and healthy, there were plenty, but he always made running a priority.

I was thinking about him when I was running and at one point on my run, I even said a quiet prayer for him, adding that this run was for him. Instead of focusing on the heat and how tired I felt, I began focusing on how thankful I was that I could run. So many people aren’t physically able to run, whether they’re sick or for other reasons. Over the years I’ve known plenty of people who also are so busy with their home lives and working multiple jobs they simply can’t find the time to run.

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A mama and baby deer I saw on a recent run made me thankful to be out enjoying nature

I’m thankful that I am able to run, even on days when I may not love being out there, but still putting in the miles. Sure, running is hard and some days it’s extremely hard (speed work days come to mind) but I still keep doing it and keep pushing through. Most days I absolutely love running. I love being outside in nature and watching all of the animals and the changes going on with the trees and flowers from one season to the next. I love the camaraderie that comes from other runners, whether it’s the small group I “run” with around the world through a running app, through blogs, or at races I run around the country.

Sometimes I may have to remind myself why I love running, when the conditions aren’t so great or I’m not feeling 100% but it’s never hard to find reasons why I should be running. Most of the time that answer is simply, “because I can,” and that alone is enough to be thankful for.

Do you remind yourself why you’re thankful to be a runner on days that aren’t so great? Why are you thankful to be a runner?

Happy running!

Donna