How To Overcome Running Challenges

Contributed by David Lam, a 2018 Ambassador for The Biofreeze Berkeley Half Marathon. 

Through the course of our experiences as runners, we’ll be faced with many challenges that can catch us on our heels. These challenges can be in the form of injuries, a waning motivation to run, or terrible weather conditions on race day (see The 2018 Boston Marathon).

One thing that’s guaranteed is that the challenges you face as a runner will never stop coming at you; you can only get stronger to power through them. The following are some supportive points to consider to make sure you’re steamrolling through the challenges as they come…

Embrace the suck

By creating a habit of doing things that suck, you’ll be making deposits into a reserve tank to pull out of when you need it the most. I call this “Running to the fight;” that is, the more times you can do things which test your mettle, the more grit you develop to tackle any running endeavor. In those moments where everything is going wrong, a mental trick that “The Toughest Man Alive” David Goggins likes to ask himself is, “What if…?” Challenge yourself to ask, “What if I could pull this off?” Start a conversation from within you to find the answers that will keep you going when everything hurts.

Becoming a tough runner isn’t about carrying a mantra to repeat in moments of distress. That’s a band-aid that can easily fall off at any time. Overcoming challenges requires forging a tenacious person that can withstand anything that’s thrown at them; it’s beyond motivation.

Running in its essence can be both poetic in skill and speed, but a knock-down, drag-out fight to endure despite discomfort. As a runner, your ability to endure will be as important as any speed or skills.

Check the ego at the door

In our digitized world, there are many outlets that trap us into comparing ourselves to everyone else’s highlight reel, whether through manicured Instagram photos or superhuman-like training activities on Strava. Nonetheless, we are the only ones that have to face our own unique challenges and experiences. Comparing our journey to other people’s is a detrimental endeavor that leads to overtraining, discouragement, and/or injuries.

Each person is built differently and has different athletic backgrounds. Understanding our own reason as to WHY we’re running is the secret recipe for longevity and consistency in this sport. This reason WHY we choose to charge forward despite setbacks will vary from person to person, but it will be the fuel we need to get out the door and to the finish line.

Look at how far you’ve come, not how much further you have to go

During low moments of a race or training block, I like to think back to the times in training where I was able to persevere despite pain and mental blocks. I think about training runs where I woke up at an unseemingly hour to run in the cold and rain. I think about moments where I was able to pull energy when I thought my tank was completely empty.

By looking back to those proud moments, I’m able to draw confidence and use that as fuel to keep me moving forward. This feeling of gratitude is the number one ally in overcoming any running challenge.

Break the journey up into small digestible pieces

Often when things get tough, we take a look at our goals and feel like they’re insurmountable. This could be the finish line of a marathon that seems impossibly far, or thinking about a long run that’s planned in 3 days when we’re currently feeling terrible. This overwhelming feeling can leave us paralyzed.

However, if we piecemeal the journey into small steps, we’ll be able to achieve small wins that will build the momentum needed to take the next step. For example, in a marathon you can tell yourself to keep a certain pace for one more mile, and then another mile. Or, for an intimidating long run, tell yourself to only think about the current day’s workout and doing the best you can before thinking about any future workouts.

Running is a journey in which you’re building a relationship with yourself. It’s the moments of elation, the lessons of disappointment, and the fight for discipline that will forge the best runner in yourself. Variables such as speed and skill can be built upon but it’s grit and fortitude that has to be developed over time. It’s the latter elements that will have you “running to the fight” instead of from it.

Best of luck to all the 2018 Biofreeze Berkeley Half Marathon runners. It will be tough, but you will be tougher.

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