Head Games

In less than a week, I’ll toe the line at my first 26.2 since 2011. I haven’t run a marathon in three years. Three long years during which I have changed drastically. I became a mom and I landed a job that takes up a lot more time than my previous freelance writer/waitress positions did. Not surprisingly, I’m running a lot less miles than I used to when marathon training. And with just six days until the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, the omgididnttrainenough PANIC is starting to set it.

Happy running—NO HEAD GAMES—at the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco last week. Hoping I can channel even a fraction of this confidence next week...
Happy running—NO HEAD GAMES—at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco last week. Hoping I can channel even a fraction of this confidence next week…

How the hell have I ever done this before? I know that so much of running is mental and right now, I’m struggling to stay focused, calm and positive. I always hear that you should “trust your training.” But what about when you barely trained at all? What about when you didn’t even follow a training plan? I’m trusting that I know what the hell I am doing, and sadly, I fear that I do not. Lack of structured training schedule aside, what’s really bothering me is that fact that two of my four 20-milers were shit shows. One was a mess because it was hot and humid and I started the run at 3 PM. Oops. The other was a hot mess for no discernible reason. That bothers me because there’s nothing I can fix. Nothing I can learn from. Or maybe I can learn from these bad runs? Maybe every run, whether it is amazing, horrible or somewhere resting in the middle, offers a lesson. If we didn’t have shitty runs, we probably wouldn’t appreciate the amazing ones. We might not have the fortitude to put one foot in front of the other during a tough race if we hadn’t proven to ourselves during the longest 20-miler of our life that we could still finish. So maybe, even when there isn’t something that specifically caused the bad run to put my finger on, it will still make me a better runner and racer. I really hope so. Obviously, I’m playing a lot of head games with myself right now. I know that logically, the paces I’ve been running are faster than the paces I was running three years ago. I also know that even though my weekly mileage is roughly 1/2 what it used to be, the miles I have put in have been higher quality. I’ve done tempos, progression runs and even hill training. A PR should be a slam dunk. Right?

Hill training this summer.
Hill training this summer.

But the larger part of my brain, the part that obsesses over every mile and tallies up my failures without adding in the wins, is seriously doubting my ability to run sub-4 next weekend. I’m questioning if running a hilly half-marathon—the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco (recap coming soon!)—was a wise choice just two weeks before the marathon. I just got over the soreness, during a time when I should have been tapering and feeling strong. I’m wishing I had run longer daily runs, instead of the 4-6 milers I put in on non-long run days. I’m wondering if I should have followed a training schedule instead of just winging it. Did I do enough? This obsessive worrying isn’t going to get me anywhere; I’m fully aware of that. It feels good to get this out of my brain. There is so much that I cannot control on race day, and I can’t change anything about my training, so I’m going to do my best to let it go. Easier said than done, of course. Fortunately, I have a sweet 18-month old to occupy my time and my mind. With Halloween falling the day before the marathon, I’ll be able to spend the day enjoying my family one of the best holidays, and hopefully not stressing over the race. How do you deal with pre-race head games? I’d love to hear how other runners deal with this! And for everyone who is racing this weekend or in the next few weeks, good luck!