Post Run Ramblings: Mental Toughness

When you’ve run consistently enough, at some point, you’ll experience a crap run…like today during my last long run (18 miles) before the Marine Corps Marathon. I totally wasn’t planning on this race but serendipitously (is that a word?) got a last minute bib transfer!  I had to shift gears from training for my first 50 miler to getting a bit speedier for this truly flat and fast course.  

The final numbers weren’t so horrible, just about 8 seconds off target EZ long run pace but man it was a struggle today and I really had to fight for it. I pondered about mental toughness as I went through some pretty dark patches. 


By Mile 10/11, my legs were feeling bonky. Calves and hamstrings spazzing out. *I* was feeling bonky and just damn hungry. I wished I had brought along my debit card so I could scarf down some yummy DC food truck food! I kept thinking, “Damn, how the hell am I gonna finish 26.2 at a full minute less per mile than this “EZnotEZ” pace?!” 😩

Last week after I kicked ass during my 22 miler, I had some dizzy spells and really thought I was dying from a brain tumor.  I started taking some iron and felt slightly better. Had some quality speed workouts and took a couple extra rest days.  But when I started feeling crappy, the tumor fears resurfaced!!! LOL 

Anyway, by the time I was a teenager, I consistently sought out ways to be more disciplined and mentally tougher…mostly because I was so sensitive and easily heartbroken by life in general. I was EMO before such a term existed. That explains me training in the toughest dojo I could find when I was 19 to enlisting in the Marine Corps a few years later. If it seemed badass and challenging I wanted to do it! 

I suppose this is why I started running long and ultra distances. If I were to psycho-analyze myself, which I always do, (ha!) I’d conclude that I was attempting to toughen up so I could feel less pain. What better way to do that than take on painful things like natural childbirth and ultra endurance events?! 

So what does it take really? After all these years of mental toughness training (counting 4 kids and 3 ex husbands!), I may have finally figured it out. 

I thought it was about shutting down the empathy, the emotion. I thought if I functioned from a place of logic and argued semantics, I’d be safe from gut-wrenching visceral emotional reactions. I thought I’d finally be TOUGH!  In fact, squatting twice your body weight or running ultramarathons doesn’t make you tough. 

What makes you mentally tough IS your emotion. Your desire. Your HEART!  Can you self motivate in your darkest hour? Can you recreate that feeling of desire and enthusiasm for achieving your goal when every thought in your mind and sensation in your body is telling you to quit? How badly do you want that win?

Learn to find your heart again. Therein lies your toughness and unstoppability. What makes us truly strong is the depth of our emotion and passion for life and what’s important to us. Be unstoppable. Live, love, and run with HEART! ❤️

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