I was in the last few miles of a hard 8 mile run a couple of days ago when I felt my pace slipping and my form failing. I had just fought through a mile of heavy headwind, followed by a protected stretch, but I was now entering a spot where the wind was going to be the strongest. I had been clipping along at about a 6:50 pace and I was tired. As I came around the turn, the wind hit me like a right cross from a heavyweight boxer.
Oh, man! I thought, this is not good.
I tried leaning into the wind. I was not going to let this wind kill my run.
It wasn’t working.
I could feel myself slowing down. The harder I tried, the sloppier I got.
C’mon! I yelled out loud. No Fear, Dammit!!!
It was all coming apart when I remembered something I had read in Chi Running. I don’t have the book with me so I can’t give you the exact quote or even the context in which I read it, however, I can tell you that I remembered something about leading with your stomach. Let you abs lead your body and your legs will follow. Something like that, anyway.
So I changed my focus. I stopped thinking about my form, I stopped thinking about my legs, I stopped thinking about my burning lungs. Instead I began to focus on my abs. I don’t want to say that I tightened my abs, but by focusing on them I felt like I was engaging them. As soon as I did that, the movement of my legs became effortless – literally. I’m not exaggerating. For about a half a mile, by focusing on my abs, I was able to run without physical effort. What’s more, my pace picked back up. After running the first half of mile 7 in 3:50, I came back with a 3:30 second half. I was only able to do this for a little over a half mile. Physically I felt great, but mentally I just could not keep the focus going. That half mile break from physical effort however allowed me to find my reserves. I closed the run with a 6:38 final mile.
So the task over the next few months is to train myself mentally as well as physically. If I can learn to stay mentally focused for three hours, Boston should be easily achieved. Of course, I had a hard enough time doing it for 3 1/2 minutes, but hey! what’s another 176 1/2 minutes, right?