Training for 100 miles: It is part a mental game

A few months ago I completed my 3rd Ultra and 1st 100 Miler, Umstead 100 and I had a blast. But one of the main things that made it a great experience was mental preparation. Although I had a blast, not everything went according to plan. But it is going to be the way you tackle the different situations when they arise, the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly that will make the difference between having a good experience or not.

In addition to the miles, training your brain to handle the distance and the long-time being active is as important as your physical endurance training. There are going to be many times you will want to stop, quit, just walk, not run, not eat, sleep and other combinations.

During your training runs, you should take the opportunity to pay close attention to your thoughts especially when you are feeling physically tired. I know it is a training run, so you will power through, but understanding those thoughts is key and part of the training process. Mentally the training run will be short, compared to the main event, but by paying attention and figuring out what you did, think about or triggers to reset or pass through that point and turn the different situation into either a positive or manageable one.

Example of this is when:

Questioning your sanity, thoughts about why am I doing this? I do not need to do this.

You might go back to the goals. The reasons. The conversations. The people counting on you. All the individuals that you are going to encounter, visualize you telling them how you were able to complete the event.

Your brain is concentrating on a phantom pain or issue.

Time to bring the music. Time to switch or focus your breathing. Time to start looking around for anyone to talk to. If no one is around then trying to focus on the environment, the weather might be your next step. Keep your mind away of the issue if it is real it will more than just a mile or two the emphasis here is phantom issues.

Things are not going as planned and you are spending too much time on the topic.

Now it is time to take count of all the times, things that are going well or great, your pace, tackling a specific section of a hill or segment, how is the chafing going, hydration, fueling, weather. Concentrate on those things for a bit and count how lucky you are that those are going great or at least your way. Deal with the issues at hand but do not dwell on them.

People passing you and you are feeling defeated. Or they look much fresher and happier than you.

Think about all the times you got a second wind in other events late in the game, or even during training runs. Also, remind yourself that you are going to pass some of those later in the event and some other runners that were ahead of you. They might be on that rebound, you will be rebounding soon.

The task at hand is so boring or tedious and there are many more miles of this still left.

Look a detail around you or slightly ahead of you. Listen to the environment what can you notice that you have not realized it is there. Be mindful of the cloud, tree, birds, flora and try to see it from a different perspective. Listen to the sound that is hidden from the noise, how the air is flowing, how it hits your skin, face, the sound it makes.

During your long event you are going to encounter this multiple times and each time you might need to dig deep, use different tricks and tactics to move on and continue to achieve your goal.

Things to consider:

  • Have a log and take notes of those important events, situations

  • Take note of all the previous events

  • Do not forget your running war stories

  • Keep in mind your reasons why, what keeps you moving forward.

Train your mind, your mental endurance as well as your brain stamina. It is part of your running life, it should be part of your training plan as well.