State of Running -July Edition (Mental Hurdles)

Summer has definitely hit Connecticut with a vengeance.

As I sit here and write, I can overhear the local meteorologist tell his viewers that this weather is here to stay.  Blerg!

I know I probably say this every year but it seems to me that the weather goes from cold/cool to blazing hot.  There is no gentle temperature increase, so for outdoor runners, it means either getting up earlier to beat the heat or making sure that you have a contingency plan if you run after the sun rises.

Mental RunningPhoto via

I myself am a morning runner.  I like to get up, get out, and get it done.  It’s not always easy, but since Mark has also started to work out in the morning, it has made that 5:00 am wake up call a bit easier.  I mean – at least there are two groggy people  heading out the door instead of one.  He won’t admit it BUT I think he likes to exercise before work as well.

Heading into July, I am a little more than 60 days away from the Lehigh Valley marathon that I am scheduled to race on September 11th.  It’s still a bit strange that I will be running my 4th marathon in about 2 months, since the other 3 I ran were in November.  An earlier marathon means I am running more specific quality workouts now.

I love easy runs but it’s these 2x weekly quality workouts, I am realizing, are the crux of my training. Without these workouts, I know I would not be in a good position come September 11th.  BUT along with those quality workouts, and in contrast to my easy runs, are specific paces that Coach James has input into my plan for me to “achieve”.

Take this past Saturday’s workout as an example

6 mile warm up; 1×3 miles at marathon pace; 1×1 mile at Threshold pace; 2 mile cool down

If I ran this workout last year, I would have ran the entire workout on the track OR ran the easy miles on the road and then driven to a track to complete the quality miles.

race-track-and-field-running-sport-sprint-olympicsPhoto via

BUT I realize that by doing that last year I might have done myself a disservice.  Yes – quality miles are quality miles BUT my own personal feeling is that they are “easier” on a track.  At a track one does not have to worry about changes in elevation or the road service.  Those variables are removed.

The fear of not achieving or hitting those paces on the road, is something that I have struggled with and am making a conscious effort this month to work on. So instead of heading to the track, I headed to the roadways of Old Wethersfield.

Now I will preface this by saying that I bought a new pair of racers the day before.  This was probably not the best way to break them in.  I was already nervous about getting these miles in “on the road” and now I had to worry about how these shoes (which were a new brand and style) would help (or hurt my feet).

Mental ObstaclesPhoto via – not the shoes I wore

So, as I started out instead of focusing on the run (a training run) for that matter, this is what spewed through my mind – new shoes, running on the road, and the big one would I be able to “perform” and hit my paces.

I know, I know – running is a huge mental game sometimes.   It was 7:00AM for peets sake – there was no one in Old Wethersfield (except some other runners) and they certainly were not judging me.  Coach James was not going to “yell” at me if I did not hit my paces – he would see it as a learning experience and ask how we could improve next time.  Mark would be excited that I got all my miles in.  It was only my mind that was the obstacle.

So it was not my best run – I got it done but it was one of those days when I was just glad when it was over.  Hitting the marathon and threshold paces that I have had no trouble doing on the track were a struggle on the road.  And for the last threshold mile – I felt like I was running faster than my Garmin told me I did.  I did not even come close :(.

I was defeated and frustrated, so I wrote a quick note in my training log but dwelled and thought about it for the rest of the day (doing yard work no less).

BUT sitting on the couch at night watching the US Track and Field Trials I had a small epiphany – training is just that (and should be just that) training.

I think I got so inside my own head earlier that day that I lost sight of what I was doing – TRAINING.  Not racing – not even trying to beat anyone.  I think in my mind I was trying to beat myself – to show not only myself but others that I could reach or exceed what was expected of me and in so doing I wore myself out mentally to the point that I could not “be in the workout”.

SO – what does that mean for this month (and the rest of this marathon training cycle) and how am I going to get over those mental hurdles that plague me.  Well here are some thoughts on how I am going to work on those mental hurdles that can invade even the most basic run.

774926895_9fe0f5495a_bPhoto credit: Robert Voors via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

6 Ways to Overcome Mental Hurdles

Mental Hurdles

I even made a little “Pin” to add to my “Running Strong” Pinterest board that I can refer to if I start getting inside my own head.

So that’s where I am this month  – Be gone mental hurdles – On ward and upward!


  1. Avatar

    Hello from a fellow McKirdy athlete! I too forget that training is training sometimes, i.e. it doesn’t have to come off perfectly every run, and as I don’t have an accessible track near me I’m stuck trying to hit my paces on the road for all workouts. It’s not always easy, for sure! Hills, traffic, people/dogs – so many variables 🙂 I don’t always trust myself to know what a pace should feel like, so I think that’s been the biggest learning curve for me, and my Garmin can be so fickle with paces for shorter intervals. I try not to pay too much attention, but it’s hard not to look down! I suppose it’s really just the effort that matters, even if I didn’t hit a specific target, though it’s a little sweeter when the numbers match my prescribed workout!

    1. Avatar

      Wow… So happy to hear for another Mckirdy trained athlete.
      I agree I am tied to my watch more often then I would like. It’s hard to break fee and I hate having the feeling I get out of my workout be tied to that stupid watch.
      I will have to keep in mind it is more about effort sometimes. Great words of wisdom!


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