By Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D.
Last Sunday I ran my 10th marathon, the Twin Cities Marathon. By most people’s standards, this makes me an experience marathoner. Yet, each time I ran 26.2 miles, I am fascinated by this mental and physical battle and the direct connections the marathon has to life.
I share this experience in my column to inspire those running next week at the Mankato Marathon and to highlight the power your mind.
Things feel smooth from the beginning of the race. My stride felt good. I was clicking along. Enjoying the beautiful fall trees in Minnesota. My thoughts were confident, positive, and focused on the process of running each mile – not on my final time or the outcome of the race.
Life was pretty awesome until I got to mile 18 Discomfort had came and went in my quads – but the key point is went. I was right on pace for a personal best time by at least 2 minutes. But at mile 18 something happened. I noticed my hands and they were very swollen. I couldn’t figure it out. “Was this an indication I was retaining water?” I wondered. My thoughts quickly turned from positive to negative. For 2 miles, I felt terrible. Instead of thinking and running confidently, I was now slowing my pace worried about my hands. My hands of all things! My body had followed my thoughts. The 2 minute buffer I had was quickly gone.
As we turned to run up Summit Avenue at mile 20, something clicked in my mind. I realized I was drowning in misery during something that I choose to do. Something that I loved to do. And something I was trained to do. I was getting in my own way and it was quickly going down hill.
At that point in my race, I made a conscious decision to take control of my mind and body. I no longer focused on my hands but directed my attention to the number of runners ahead of me. I began to look up. Believing and dreaming that I could get to the top of Summit Hill. Focused on all of the runners I could pass. My thoughts began to turn from negative to positive. I made a conscious decision to change my thoughts and felt empowered.
I started to feel like I had more energy. In ½ mile, I had forgotten about my hands. I started to feed off the energy of the crowd. Pumping my arm when people told me how smooth or fast I looked. I smiled at them. Feeling the energy and taking it all in. Feeling grateful for the opportunity to run a marathon.
Suddenly I was running faster and faster. The negativity and discomfort passed. “I can push when I am tired,” I told myself. “Go, go, go!” I only allowed positive thoughts in my mind for the next 6 miles. As those thoughts flooded in, my body went faster and faster. Again, my body had followed my mind. In the final 6 miles of the marathon, I passed 90 people – counting each one. As I finished the marathon, my arms went straight into the air in celebration.
This race symbolizes how we each get in our own way. We make things bigger than they are and allow ourselves to think about the worst case scenario instead of the best case scenario. We allow our thoughts to focus on what is going wrong, not what is going well.
We must be resilient and persistent despite the discomfort or negativity we experience. Marathoners all experience miles where they do not feel great in a marathon, just like everyone has days they do not feel great in life. We must keep going. Stay focused on our goal and working to get back to our best mentally. We need to act differently than how we feel.
Our thinking creates a pathway to experience both failure and success. You accomplish what you do because of what you think. Only we are responsible for our own thinking. When we take control of our mind and give that big push, the possibilities are endless.