Running: how to win the mental game
Fancy becoming a runner, but can't quite find the motivation? Runners and authors John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield are on hand to help
Extract taken from The New Runner (Rodale)
As a young man, I had visions of becoming a racquetball player. I got all the equipment, bought the shoes, booked the court and got ready to go. A good friend agreed to teach me the game. His instructions were simple: 'Be the ball.' Be the ball? I had no idea what that meant. I couldn't even figure out how to hit the ball, let alone be the ball.
After a few weeks, though, the truth of what he said became clearer. As I focused less on where I was and what I was going to do, and more on where the ball as and what it was going to do, I suddenly found myself in a position to hit the ball more often. I still couldn't hit it where I wanted it to go, but at least I was beginning to get a sense of how the ball thought and acted and reacted to the game.
When I started running, I was trying to be a runner. I tried to control every aspect of what I was doing. The more I read about running, the more control I tried to exert on every aspect of my running.
I tried to run tall. I tried to run like I was being pulled on a string. I tried to run like there was a rubber band tied around my chest and pulling me forward. I tried to run like I was running on hot coals. I tried it all. Eventually I came to learn that the runner I wanted to be was inside my head. The runner that I was trying to become was already there in my mind, in my imagination. All I needed to do was to try to close the gap between what I imagined I could be and what I actually was.
I imagined myself running effortlessly. I imagined myself looking like an Ironman champion. I imagined myself running with a purpose, with a steady rhythm. When I was able to top looking at myself from the outside - when I stopped looking at the awful gait, the awkward form, the painfully slow pace and the complete lack of finesse - I started to look like a runner.
When I looked at myself from the inside out - when I listened to my heart beating; when I listened to my lungs working; when I listened to the sound of my feet hitting the ground, step after step, relentlessly carrying me forward - I started to feel like a runner.