I found myself giggling over breakfast this morning while reading the following excerpt from The NonRrunners Marathon Trainer:
“This week, test the power of the “as if” and the importance of the mental components of class by repeating the phrase, “I am a marathoner” in time with your steps. As you run, say it over and over. Also, start telling people about what you’re doing. Each day tell one new person that you are a marathoner – not that you are trying to run a marathon, but that you are a marathoner. Instruct your family and friends to routinely ask you, “Are you a marathoner?” to which you answer, “Yes, I am!” And by the end of the week you will feel differently about yourself. Any uncertainty you might have had about your ability to complete the rest of the training and successfully finish the marathon will be gone. Because, after all, you are a marathoner!”
Now, let me just say as a disclaimer that I agree with what the book says…I am not criticizing it. I only want to point out the humor I found in its seriousness. For example, the idea of requesting my own family to ask me if I am a marathoner every time they talk to me almost had me in tears. I can just imagine the sarcastic jokes that would follow me to the grave, all said in love, of course. And the thought of intentionally finding a new victim each day to whom I could proclaim my marathoner membership just seemed a bit nutty. Whom would I tell? The checkout girl at the grocery store? The guy with his window rolled down in the over-sized, tricked-out pickup next to me at the stoplight? The old lady sitting next to me in church who doesn’t speak English? “Peace be with you. I’m a marathoner.” I just can’t quite see that happening.
However, I do have to agree that so much of preparing for a marathon is mental preparation. Running these kinds of distances is definitely masochistic and requires a certain tolerance for self-torture. You really do have to go through some major brainwashing to get yourself beyond the constant self-reminding of how miserable you are and how much your body aches and how you would much rather be laying out by the pool drinking anything fruity. The mind is powerful and can completely change the way you run. In preparing for my half marathon, even though I enjoyed it so much, I still had to fight to run the long distances. I kept imagining myself running across the finish line with my arms raised very Rocky-like with crowds cheering me on. I may have even allowed myself to hear the crowd chant “SARAH! SARAH! SARAH”! as I jumped around, arms raised in victory. Again, very Rocky-like. But hey, it worked! Just the idea of thinking that I could and would finish got me excited and feeling like a winner before I ever got to the race. And I ran my heart out the whole 13.1 miles, blazing across the finish line.
But trying to conjure up the same image while in mile 18 of a 20 mile run is not quite as easy. At that point my mind is usually showing me hobbling across the finish line in pain, half bent over and limping from swollen knees and hip flexors, and plopping right down on my butt in exhaustion, feeling nothing but relief that the torture is over. Clearly I have some work to do in the next few weeks before I have to do 26.2 miles for real.
On my last long run, I tried to imagine myself running across the finish line with the same stamina as when I finished the half marathon, but apparently my body knows better and is not so easily fooled by my false flattery. So maybe I need to follow a little of the aforementioned advice to start proclaiming to the world my status as a marathoner. Maybe I haven’t yet quite allowed myself to claim that title because I’m still afraid that I won’t make it to the end. Maybe I need to reawaken the Stuart Smally inside of me, to make myself believe that I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and that dawgonnit, people like me! Maybe I need to bring back my mantra that I found myself chanting over and over during my half marathon training: “Thank you God for legs that run free, lungs that breathe deep, arms that propel me on, and for the heart of a champion.”
So, that will be my mission this week: to tell myself each day that I CAN. That I WILL finish and that I will finish STRONG. That I AM a CHAMPION. That even when my butt, thighs, hips, God knows what else are beggin’ for mercy, I WILL go on. Like Rocky, I WILL go the distance. Because, after all, I AM A MARATHONER!!!