Summer Plod: A Hilly, Mixed Terrain
The best decision I made was to sign up to Summer “Plod” back in July. A gruelling 21 miles of hills and mixed terrain. Leading up to the event my negative emotions crept in and I genuinely thought this was the biggest mistake to date; attempting 21 miles in July when marathon day wasn’t until October. There was plenty of time to build up to that level of running. Feeling at the time like my brain was that annoying little child at the edge of the swimming pool who pushed my body; the nervous and shy child, in the deep end! At the time I was genuinely uncertain as to whether by body would sink or swim!
The mild groin injury picked up before the event didn’t help nervousness and I could’ve done with a less stressful start to race day. Even during the race I suffered 2 anxiety attacks and IBS pain. But the amazing thing that happened was that I didn’t stop, this was all ammunition to get to the finish line.
Reflecting on training for Summer Plod, I had only clocked the majority of miles when I was “100%.” Surrendering to any Black Dog Days and writing that training day off. The physical and emotional encounters during Summer Plod gave me a new perspective and mind-set to training; that it’s not all about the good days and the good runs. It’s about the days when you don’t feel top of your game; feeling tried, depressed, negative and when you have to hurl your body out the front door to simply see what happens.
So why is this such an important breakthrough?
The brain is the most powerful tool in the body, it can control how you feel about an experience by flooding you with positive or negative emotions.
Imagine competing in the Olympics to a full house. Now, imagine that full house completely surrounding the track have decided to boo you the entire way. How would you feel? The amount of effort you’d put into training, pushing limits and being the strongest you possible, only for the entire audience to turn against you with such hostility. Pretty massive negative experience, right? This negative experience is a single example demonstrating the internal monologue from your brain (the audience) and the powerful effect on your body (the athlete). It doesn’t matter how much training you do, if the body and mind cannot synchronise, magnetise and maximise that positive energy then you won’t reach your true potential.
During Summer Plod and the series of physical and emotional encounters, I realised I would either sink or swim. My body and mind would either have to work together or give up. But in the middle of the Meon Valley there’s really not anywhere to give up and go to! But it certainly gave me time to reflect and iron out those marathon training creases. So below, I’ve put together advice and reasons for getting out and about through the tough days.
Training when you’re not at maximum strength
To be brutally honest, there’s a strong chance you’re not going to feel great on race day, regardless of whether you suffer depression or not:
Anxiety. Those months of training will understandably make you anxious. You’ve dedicated countless hours to this day, training so that you can successfully and confidently complete the event. If you suffer some anxiousness, take some deep breaths as it’ll help get some fresh oxygen around the body, remind yourself of those long training runs that got you confidently to this point.
Tired. You may find the night or nights before race day you struggle to drift off because your mind is buzzing with scenarios for race day. I decided to clock a 15 mile training run on just 3 hours sleep purely to prove a point to myself. So that on race day if I’m tired from a sleepless night, I know I can still do this and have the best nights sleep that evening!
Depressed. Very different to just feeling anxious. If you struggled getting out of bed and putting on your running gear, then well done, you’ve already made it to the start line. A huge achievement. Find a quieter spot and have an internal body and mind board-meeting. Again with some deep calming breaths, it’s important to reflect on how far you’ve come getting to this moment. The hardest part of my revised training plan following on from post Plod Run, was throwing myself out the front door, when every ounce of me wanted to hide away from the world. Personally, I have NEVER regretted going for a run when I was depressed, I always came back feeling strong. Remember you are in control, you have encountered this before and you have succeeded.
Buddy up. If you can train with a friend, then do it. If you can run an event with a friend, then do it too. Help each other, distract each other, laugh, giggle and smile your way around training and race day.
I genuinely cannot make it to race day. It is not the be-all and end-all of your existence, your brain might try to convince you that it is but that’s the negativity creeping in to get its feed. Give yourself a thoughtful reminder of all those great runs and achievements, don’t disregard all that effort. You are strong and have worked hard. For whatever reason you can’t make it to race day; accept it and look forward to your next adventure!