“What could you possibly think about for that long?” is a question I often get from people who hear how far I like to run. They are often more surprised to hear that I rarely listen to music unless I am struggling in an Ultra race to silence my inner voice’s subtle suggestions to just stop and lay down for quick nap.
As I’ve thought more about this question recently, I ended up putting my thoughts in 3 categories:
Biofeedback: The Race Car Analogy
I never understood car racing despite living in Indianapolis for a few years and attending the INDY 500 a couple of times. I didn’t appreciate the knowledge and experience needed to effectively monitor the car’s sounds, gauges, it’s performance, and the importance of how the driver is feeling. All of this information then needs to be applied to the plan that was created in advance while having the ability to adjust the strategy as conditions often change.
This analogy applies to running although the machine being monitored is my own body. On training runs, especially those which are more structured like hill repeats, track workouts, or long runs, I try and pay close attention to those areas I know will be important in a race. What works from a nutritional perspective? How is my form? as well as trying to reflect on what I have learned about a race’s terrain, elevation, and other factors that help me prepare. This approach has allowed me to be so much more in tune with what my body needs as well as how to adjust as situations change and unexpected challenges arise.
Making Sense of it All
This category is not as well-defined but it is where I probably spend more time than I care to admit while training. It is a time where I process important information from work, nonsense from the media, and where I like to think I flush my mental system clean. It is not a time where I try to solve my problems or come up with new ideas (although this is a frequent by-product). I believe this time is important and would benefit many of us who are constantly surrounded and preoccupied with technology. While some may feel that “vegging out” in front of a TV is the same thing, I’d challenge them to disconnect from all electronics and just get out in nature to truly clear your mind and focus on what’s truly important!
God Help Me
While running has improved my health over the last several years, the greatest benefit has been its impact on my faith. This topic deserves much more than I will write here and I will follow-up with another post devoted to this topic in the future.
However, counting my blessings and praying is a part of my warm up for each run. These first few miles have come to serve as a time for me to connect with the Lord and thank Him for all He has provided. Whether I am out there at 4:30am when the stars are bright overhead or a few hours later as the sun is rising, I am always amazed at His wonderful creation.
God is always present with each of us but I feel the greatest connection in an ultra when I have exhausted my mind and body of everything, and I turn to God to ask for the strength to finish. It is during these times, whether I am by myself or with others, that I truly know that I am never “alone”. This confidence is what helps me get through the challenges on a run or in life and is what I find most comforting.
So next time you’re out pounding the pavement or digging deep on the trails, listen to your body, clear your mind, and praise the Lord for all of the blessings in your life.