Today’s training agenda for the Umstead Trail Marathon was 14 miles. You’d think after 19 half marathons, 32 miles at Hinson Lake, and 21 miles at Crooked Road that I wouldn’t fear these long runs anymore. Well, if you think that, you’re overestimating my courage. Part of me loves the idea of running forever. On paper it seems so easy. The other part is all like, “That’s the dumbest, most painful thing you could do with a decent Saturday morning.”
To make my morning even more brutal, I went to the .95-mile loop at our local park for 15 laps, plus a little extra around the soccer field to make the full distance. Because doesn’t that make running 14 miles sound even worse?
Surprisingly, doing all those loops was a-okay. There’s a nice pond and lots of trees, and pretty much nobody ever goes out there, so it’s really quiet. I organized my doodads on the car hood—water, PB&Js, squeezable fruit things, GU Chomps, etc.—and pitched layers there as the temperature rose. Loops are convenient.
The biggest difficulty came from my brain. Mile five found me thinking, “Jesus, by this time Josh would be more than halfway done with 14. I still have two hours to go. Goldang, I am slow.”
That was my mind. Sorry for the shouting. Sometimes it does that.
See, my Umstead goal is to make the six-hour cutoff—a 13:40-something pace. Today’s goal was an overall 12-minute pace. The park is hilly and I’m slow, so that was reasonable.
Spoiler: I achieved my 12-minute pace. Pretty much every mile was right at 12. How did I do it? With this mantra:
Empty your mind. Keep running.
The number of words per exhale depended on my effort level.
Before the mantra hit me, I was obsessing about my slowness, and then about all the crazy stuff that happens in the world and how everyone lives through some brand of crazy stuff. So then I started itemizing my own crazy life experiences, including but not limited to the L.A. riots, the Northridge earthquake, that one day in September when New York was suddenly no fun anymore…
“STOP!” shouted my mind, adding, “Empty your mind! Keep running!”
Ooh, good idea. I repeated those words as I ran, and suddenly my mind was empty… and I was still running. So I kept saying it. And I kept running. And I followed my preplanned eating and drinking strategy. And I hit my mileage and pace goals for the day.
A December 15 miracle. Let’s hope it sticks.
Tell me: How do you keep your mind from overwhelming your run?