Not just the body.

It's not always about pushing your body to its limits. 
It's not always about hitting that pace you had your mind set on. 
It's not always easy. 


The past couple of weeks I've been training. This will be no surprise to many of you. It's what I do. What I have been training hasn't been just my body though. I've admitted to myself I have another weakness which needs trained. That weakness is my mind. 

The Track

Last Saturday I went to the track on my own. Most of my running buddies were racing at Musselburgh.

I got to the track and I had written on my hand my lap splits. The times I had to hit every 400m. This was to try and help me focus on the job ahead.

First lap needed to be 1:25 / 1:26
Second lap needed to be 2:51 / 2:52
Third lap needed to be 4.17 / 4.18
Final lap would bring me in at 5:43 but since the track is 1600m and a mile 1609m, my mile pace would be 5:45 which is my target for the half marathon. 

I did my warm up and then got started and straight away I was down a second on the first 400! Not a great start. Lap after lap I was missing my times and at this point I was very tempted to just chuck the session in the bin and go home. 

But I didn't. 

I asked myself, why was I missing the times? The answer was pretty simple. It was blowing a gale down the back straight of the track and I was needing to work really hard to keep moving forward. I was probably losing 2 seconds a lap down the back and I wasn't making the time back anywhere. 

I tried pushing harder down the back but it wasn't working. I was just making myself more fatigued.

The first set was done. 3 miles with splits 5:52, 5:53, 5:56

After 3 minutes recovery I did another 2 miles. 6:07 for the first and that's when I had a word with myself. No more reps slower than 6:00 minutes. I could accept 5:50's but not 6's! The second mile was 5:56.
Another 2 minutes recovery it was the final set of 2 miles. 
A 6:00 first mile, another word with myself and then a 5:54. 

The legs were really struggling along the back straights but I focuessed on keeping light on my feet and getting the laps in. 


 Another session

Tuesday was another session on the track but this time it was with the usual Edinburgh AC squad and it was roasting!

My session was 16x400 at 85 seconds a lap. Before the laps started though we had to do 7 and a half minutes of tempo running which for me is just under 6 minutes a mile. 

First lap of the 16 and I was targeting 85 seconds a lap but came in at 81. A bit fast but that was now going to be my target for the rest of the 15 laps. Lap after lap I was hitting the times but then at lap 8, the legs started to get tired. I didn't think I could do another 8 but I focused on one lap at a time and I was actually getting faster! I was now dipping in to the 70's. 

After 12 laps, most of the squad finished their session. They were doing flat out 400s but 12 of them in prep for 10k races. There was now just 2 of us doing the 16. I decided, focus on getting to 14. I did and I was still within the 70 second window! 

Then I had to dig really deep. The other guy who I presumed was doing 16 since he did 14, stopped! I was now on my own for the final 2 400s. 

One more rep I told myself, just get the 15th done and then it's just 400 to go. I really had to dig deep to get the legs up to pace again but I tried to relax and keep light on my feet. It worked. Another sub 80 second rep (76s). The final rep was all out and I thought I was going to throw up at the end, a 74s lap. Job done and the DOMS kicked in on Thursday morning. Another session where the mind was stronger than the body. 


One more session!

And just when I thought the mental toughness training was done for the week, I headed out at 6:40am today and knocked out an 11 mile run with 9 miles of tempo pace. Averaged 6:07 min/mi pace for the 9 miles. The final 2 miles I had to really focus on relaxing and enjoying the run and again, as soon as I relaxed, the pace got faster and it actually felt easier!

Reading this blog back I've noticed there is a lot of talk about the pace. It's not intentionally a "Look at me" post. What I'm trying to say is, sometimes just running hard isn't enough, you need to be mentally strong as well. Running fast, what ever your 'fast' is, isn't easy. You don't get new personal best times by thinking you can't run at that pace. You need to believe you can, you need to be able to tell your body to shut up when things start to hurt and if you do replicate that pain during training then you are better equipped to deal with it in a race. 

Train the mind and the body will follow. 


Owain Williams

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