Mind Over Matter

I went for a long run with C this week. (When I say long, I mean seven miles. Long for me, but for C., now training for her third–or is it fourth?–marathon, I’m sure it felt like a quick jog.)

Since my first “long” runs with my high school track team, I’ve never quite decided if I think we get personal on long runs because the sheer physical endeavor requires instant and profound bonding with the people around us, or because we’re simply bored and in need of some serious distractions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On our run, C. noticed I was visibly struggling to maintain our pace as we climbed a long hill around mile six. Up and over, I was thinking to myself.

C. was mentally (well, physically too) a step ahead. She brought up the idea that we allow ourselves to excuse our bodies–I can’t run any faster, I can’t run any farther, it’s just not possible. Because of the length of my legs, the capacity of my lungs, the strength of my muscles, I will never be as fast as that 6’6″ man passing us on the left–but we have a harder time excusing our brains. When we see a girl our age, our build, flying past us, our immediate reaction is to cut her down, C. said, along the lines of “She might be faster than me, but I bet I’m smarter than her.”

But the mind is equally strong in the opposite way. Throughout those seven miles, some of the thoughts that went through my head included: Why are you doing this, don’t you just want to walk the rest of the way, you’re going to be so sore tomorrow. Only when making a conscious effort to enjoy myself did I stop and think: What a beautiful day out, look how green Central Park is, go little legs go!

The majority of my athletic endeavors have been motivated by competition, and in those instances I can turn my mind off, devoting myself entirely, oftentimes animalistically, to allowing my body to accomplish its goals. But in running, with all that time to myself, sometimes it’s tricky to tell which is harder to overcome, those rolling hills, or the thoughts pushing me back down them.

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