When I am more than three quarters through my planned running route, I often start anticipating the end. It feels like the run is almost over when it’s not. I have to remind myself to stay steady and that it is not the time to slow down. It’s definitely not the time to switch to walking. I need to trick my brain and give it my all.
A long run can be divided in three parts, in my mind. The first part, your body is warming up. You may be wrestling with getting into the groove, either in body or mind. You’re assessing how your body’s feeling that day. Somewhere in the middle, you typically hit your stride. The middle is the best part. You’re warmed up. Your body is moving efficiently. Your mind is benefitting from the efficient, consistent, movement. The last part is necessary to get to the end. You might be getting tired. Your mind may be wandering. Your body may be seizing up in places. Mostly, for me anyway, it’s the mind that’s the tricky part in the last leg.
I had a spin coach who liked to come out for a run with me sometimes. She used to suggest we pick up speed towards the end. Do the opposite of what our minds tend to want to do. Distract the anxiousness to get to the end by moving faster.
This thinking something is over, or willing it to be over, when it’s not really over can happen in other areas. Academia, work tasks, even reading a book that feels like a slog. You might start off strong and give it your all. But if you get tired or bored and you see the end near, you may determine that you are “pretty much done”.
When it comes to running, I have learned to hold steady. To see it through. Doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There are days when my motivating mantras can run thin.
When I was Googling about this phenomenon, I came across this article about how this behaviour can be linked to anxiety. Well, of course. #%!*!! anxiety. The root of many ill-thought-out behaviour.
The article linked above, provides advice about how to stop anxiety from intruding on your behaviour. The points that stood out to me, along with my own commentary, are:
- Don’t buy into the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviour are a package deal. My interpretation of this is “just because your mind is telling you that you should be done, doesn’t mean it’s true!”. Challenge those thoughts. What is your goal here? How do you feel? Can you do it? Can you give it your all until the end? If yes, tell your thoughts to mind their own business and then do the thing that you are there to do.
- Act as if you can. The mantras I repeat in my head help during the middle part of a long run. I think I need to add specific mantras for the last leg of a run. “It’s not over until it’s over” might work? “You enjoy this! Keep going.” “Be the athlete (student, employee) you are and give each part of this your all!”
- Be guided by what you want, rather than what you want to avoid. I mean, to be honest, at the point in question, I may want to be done, feeling all the “end of the run” runner’s high, buying my coffee from my favourite local joint. But, I also want to earn that high. To finish the route I set out to do.
In addition to the above points, it is important to plan ahead of time. Knowing that you have certain tendencies or patterns that may play out, and having a plan, whether mantras, or a plan on how to react with your body (slower/faster) can help you stay focussed on your goal. Planning will probably help in other areas where the anxiety trigger may try to veer you off course.
In most cases, whether it’s a run, a course, a task, giving it your all in the last leg, will make the end feel that much sweeter.
Can you relate to this readers? What do you do when your mind wants to tell you are over when you still have a ways to go? What works? What doesn’t?