Saturday, June 11, 2011

Running truly is 80% mental

Joan Benoit Samuelson dramatically won gold in the women's marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the year that event was first introduced for women. Afterward she was quoted as saying: “Running is 80 percent mental.” I fully agree, and this morning's training run demonstrates why.

I ran with the Kenyan Way training group beginning at dawn, on a typical hot and humid Houston early morning. The temperature was already 78F, the humidity was a dripping 90%, and the sun - though low on the horizon - was already baking. I felt drained after only seven miles when we temporarily returned to base for fluids. Despite my growing fatigue I had held onto the group's 8:00 pace for the entire distance, but unlike prior cooler training runs it was truly an absolute struggle. Consequently, I was ready to hang it up, and began to imagine the delicious thought of taking an early shower.

With my mind nearly made I suddenly remembered the commitment I'd given to the friend running beside me an hour before, that I'd run the entire planned 11 miles. So, despite my doubts, I decided to run with the suddenly enlarged group for the remaining distance. The psychological benefit of being part of a group paid off! I was drawn into the group's conversation, and by doing so appropriately slowed my pace somewhat. Before I knew it we were back at base! Afterward, looking at my Forerunner I was delighted to realize that we'd maintained the same consistent 8:00 pace throughout the entire distance - despite the warming conditions.

If you're training for a longer distance race such as a marathon or half-marathon you really should join a group, ideally one such as Kenyan Way as it is led by a great coach who provides individualized training plans and replicates race conditions by providing both sports drink and water every two to three miles. You'll enjoy the benefits of running with others who are at - or ideally slightly faster than - your training pace, will treasure the group's companionship, quickly make friends, and will discover the training benefits to be huge. The latter owing to running longer distances than you'd otherwise manage, and being much more consistent both in pacing and in overall frequency.


  1. Great job, Mark and a great reminder about the mental part of running. You know that I'm a big believer!

  2. Hi Mark. Nice post. Way to zip up your man suit.