August 8-11th

mental barriers to successToday I want to talk about overcoming mental barriers. I feel like I’ve faced these throughout my running life.

Early on during my Chicago marathon training I struggled with overcoming a self-imposed 8:00/mi mental barrier. I could easily run faster than that on tempo and repeat workouts, but overcoming that pace for a prolonged period of time was a huge mental barrier for me. I don’t believe this falls in the category of mental toughness, although it absolutely has an element of it within, I do believe it was a huge psychological barrier for me for whatever reason.

I’ve run a half in 7:42 before so it shouldn’t be, but for whatever reason when it comes to training I can’t get past it. This weekend I finally did, granted with some help from the treadmill, but I didn’t make the conditions favorable to get the full benefit of the air outside breaking my body down and make breathing difficult. I also pushed the last 10k at a faster pace than I normally would. I’ll get into this in another post.

For DC (my first marathon) my long runs were in the 9:30-9:45 range, every once in awhile I’d get them down to 9:15…I ran 8:44s.

I’ll leave Newport out because I didn’t train well.

Big Sur my long runs were in the 8:35-8:50 range…I ran 8:15, but believe I could’ve ran 8:00-8:05.

I may completely bonk in Chicago, it might be 85 degrees at the starting line, I could get hurt, a million things could happen between now and then, but having a 7:36 long run under my belt helps break that psychological barrier down, knowing that on race day I can dig a bit deeper, reach into the tank of adrenaline, and find the extra 30 seconds a mile.

Running the tempo runs at race pace (read: a little ahead of race pace) is also a big help in breaking that barrier down for me personally. By the end of my training, before the taper I will reach 10 miles at race pace, I may even extend one to 11 or 12, we’ll see how I’m feeling.

To date, I’ve been all over the map on these, but the biggest factor has been the timing of my meals. I’ve been pushing them off a little bit, which hasn’t allowed me to fully digest, causing my stomach to be upset, although mentally challenging it’s just stupid. When I’ve run on a mostly empty stomach I’ve run pretty well.

Learn from what I did and plan your meals appropriately around your training. I may start moving my runs back to the morning, I used to like that a lot better. Get up, glass of water, run, the rest of the day is yours. We’ll see.

The rest of the week is going to be a challenge as I’m waking up at 1:30a to get picked up and go deep sea fishing, then I’m going to be bouncing around the rest of the week, it’s not going to be easy to get the appropriate workouts in at the required distances.

For Big Sur I was in Vegas about 7 weeks from the race…I was as surprised as you are the number of people who go to the gym at 6am in Vegas…I’ll figure it out.


I’m going to group these together this week, maybe a few times in the future too. Friday, Saturday and Monday are always easy runs so there’s not a lot of testing/unique there, maybe an interesting observation. Every other Sunday is a long run, sometimes I’ll highlight that individually, other times I won’t.

This weekend brought the nicest weather of the year here in the Northeast so I skipped the blog in favor of the pool.

Quick Summary:

Friday – 8 Miles Easy 8:02 trail run – Wanted to push the easy pace to challenge my tired legs

Saturday – 7 Miles Easy – 8:17 trail run took it easy

Sunday – 15 Miles – Long Run – 7:36 Last 10k at 7:10’s

Monday – 5 Miles – Easy -8:16 – Super easy road run in the heat

Last week I reached my goal mileage and despite feeling a bit tired, had some great workouts. As I said last week, those are the workouts that can break you mentally if you allow them to.

When I say, it needs to be qualified i.e. if you haven’t broken the 4 hour mark and you’re training to run a 2:30, that’s unrealistic so that will break you because you’re being stupid. Don’t be stupid.

I know full well that my training may result in an injury as I’m going for a 30 minute improvement or 75 seconds per mile, which is semi-stupid, but I also feel like I want to keep the momentum going and with a chance to qualify for Boston. Keeping the momentum allows me to push the limits of my mind and body in an attempt to set a PR. Beating my Newport time by 20 minutes on one of the toughest courses in the world makes me believe I can get there on a short turn around.

6 comments on “Chicago Marathon Training: Overcoming Mental Barriers

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