In order to succeed in sports, it takes a mix of mental and physical strength. An athlete can’t survive on one alone, but needs both to be at top notch in order to perform to the best of their ability.
I think runners in general are pretty mentally strong. It takes a special type of person to push into pain… and enjoy it. Not everyone can run for multiple hours to make it to the finish line of a marathon. Am I mentally strong? Personally, I wouldn’t consider myself to have all that much mental strength. Sure, I probably have more than the average bear, maybe more than the average runner, but nothing special. I hate when I get passed by runners that are breathing harder. It makes me feel like they’re working more and can push into more pain than me. There have been times that I’ve had some kick*ss races and really have risen to the occasion. However, there’ve also been plenty of times when I’ve buckled under the pressure. I consistently have solid workouts, but it doesn’t always translate on race day. I have stellar time trials and good performances at unimportant races. However, I am oftentimes iffy when it really counts. Out of the six races I ran at Thetford, I’m really only proud of two.
Do I have talent for running? Sure, I have some. I wouldn’t be able to run as fast without some talent. When I was in elementary school I could outlast almost everyone in my class during the “pacer” (a fitness assessment that tests endurance). If I didn’t have some talent, I wouldn’t have been able to qualify for states in the 800 three months after surgery with barely any training. Is my talent for running really all that special, though? Not particularly. My running ability isn’t anything out of the ordinary. I’ve consistently been one of the top runners on my team or in my age category, but it’s not like I won states or qualified for nationals. What I do have is a great work ethic. If I have a workout scheduled then I’m going to get it done. I don’t always WANT to do the workout and sometimes I have to force myself out the door, but I get it done.
The Psychology of it all:
I took a sports psych class last fall and it was pretty cool, but most of what I learned was common sense. For instance, one of the biggest things I remember was when we talked about gaining confidence for competition. Success in competition leads to more self-confidence, which translates into more successful performances. Simple, right? That’s why you often hear of teams going undefeated or having huge winning streaks. It’s easier to keep things going when you’re successful than to bounce back after a bad performance.
As much as I like the saying that failure makes you stronger, I don’t believe that’s always true. Failure can take a blow to one’s self esteem and create doubts in oneself that weren’t previously there. I do believe that failure can be helpful, though. After my bad marathon it made me realize how much I want it. It made me realize how badly I want to have a good race and what I’m willing to do in order to succeed at the distance.
I am currently still pretty disappointed in my marathon experience this spring. I don’t think that wound will heal until I have a marathon performance I can be proud of, but I’ve decided that I definitely want to give the marathon another go. I’m not a giver-upper and I can’t leave that distance alone because I had a bad first-go of it.
I run 6xweek, normally for over an hour each time. I put in so much time training my body to perform, but if mental strength is such a big component of performing well, why don’t I spend more time working on the psychological aspect? I have some serious work to be done regaining my mental strength. Over the next few months, I will be working diligently on that.
A Last Note
When I first started blogging, I wanted everything I wrote to be cheery and happy. I thought people wouldn’t want to read what I had to say unless it was all positive. However, I now think honesty is more important. I want this blog to be genuine and I’m not going to put on a happy face when I don’t mean it. That’s one thing I’ll promise you. I apologize that my posts lately haven’t been as positive as previously, but that’s just not where my head is at currently. Once my training gets more consistent and I get more in the groove of things, I’m sure I’ll be back to my old running self, so stay tuned! Thanks so much for sticking by me. I have the best supporters and I love you all! ❤
Are you mentally strong? Do you think you have natural talent?