The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race: Lesson 3

The Top 5 Things Not To Do In a Running Race
The Tales and Lamentations of the Ill-Prepared Runner

Lesson 3 – Hitting the Wall(s)

Pain is temporary, victory is forever – this was the caption written on a large cardboard sign, held by a loving spectator at the half way point of a grueling hill in a half marathon I ran in 2010. I will never forget that sign because it inspired me to not only finish the race strong, but adopt that as my mantra for running. That is a meaningful saying because there are two walls that a runner can hit when they run a race – the mental wall and the physical wall. I have experienced both and both come with their own pace-stopping criteria.  I fully ran into both walls when I ran the Calgary Scotiabank Marathon on May 30, 2010 – my first full marathon. Let’s talk about the mental wall first because frankly, you will often meet this guy first in a race.

The body is truly incredible, yet our mind can play tricks on us. It whispers to us, “Slow down man. You can’t do this. This is boring, go grab a cheeseburger! Wouldn’t you rather be watching Full House?” All of these thoughts were running through my head as I approached the 26km marker. I was mentally spent in every capacity. I met the mental equivalent of the Berlin Wall, and it didn’t seem like it was ready to crumble anytime soon. I wanted to stop…I wanted to quit…but I didn’t. I accepted the fact that I felt tired, but I knew that I had trained for this moment. That is what you must learn in running races. The challenge can sometimes seem insurmountable and impossible, but you must remember that your body is a well-oiled machine. Push through the false thoughts of failure and you will finish the race successfully.

The mental wall has a friend. This friend is not such a nice guy, nothing more than a schoolyard bully! With the mental wall comes the physical wall. Unfortunately, they are inseparable and come as one unified package throughout the duration of the race. At kilometre 39 of the full marathon, the wall took a flying leap of a high dive and came crashing down upon me in a pile of rubble and sorrow. 300 meters from the 39 kilometre sign, I knew I was SUPER tired. As I continued to run I thought to myself, “Alright Chad. You are going to just throw up. But you have to keep moving when you do it. Run a little, throw up a little, run a little. Easy peasy! Just keep going and do it right behind that bush.” I passed the bush that I had eyed out, and to my surprise I didn’t put on a show for any of the spectators. This was a great choice because the crowd on that section of the course consisted of a large group of children who looked to be especially happy and pleasant and an old woman sitting on a lawn chair with a big red cow bell. There was no need to ruin their day and hear a chorus of 30 screaming, crying children! I pushed for the last 3km, it was hard, but I did it. Crossing the finish line of my first full marathon is a feeling of pure elation that I will truly never forget in my entire time on this earth. My advice, when the wall hits, keep pushing, keep running, but slow down a bit. You want to keep your pace, the wall wants to crush you – slowing down is a fair compromise.

Walls can be a challenge. But make sure that you bring your mental climbing gear to each and every race because with some determination, you can overcome anything. Run safe, run smart, know your limitations. Running is beautiful; don’t make a mess of the Mona Lisa.

Stay tuned next week for Lesson 4 – Dress for the Weather

Written by Chad Baird | BCMM Public Relations Student | Mount Royal University