Thanks For Making Me a Fighter

Runner’s World cover for March 2010 [Source] and a thanks to the article Mind Games that inspired me to dig deep and keep moving forward.

“Goucher’s candid admissions about her psychological struggles are rare for an elite athlete but they will ring true to any runner who’s ever battled doubts, setbacks, or mental demons. Which is to say, all of us.” That is how the article Mind Games by Bruce Barcott starts off. The Runner’s World article about Kara Goucher, in the March 2010 issue, focuses on how a lack in confidence can really bring you down even when you have the ability to be the best in the world. Barcott describes Goucher as “one of the most accomplished American runners of her generation.” He goes on further to describe Goucher and her accomplishments,

“[Goucher] was a monster in the middle distances: top-ranked American at 10,000 meters, second at 3,000 meters, and top five at 5,000 meters. In 2008, she decided to try her first marathon…the New York City Marathon. She came in third. Last year she ran Boston – her second 26.2 miler ever – and missed breaking the tape by a mere nine seconds.”

Goucher has done amazing things with her talent, but from reading this article I soon learned that she had/has those little voices in her head that deter her from being able to do her best all the time.

In all honesty I do not have the ability to be the best runner in the world, nor do I wish to be the best. Putting that aside I still identified with Goucher’s story because sometimes, no matter how far you are running, your mind can get to you and start saying things you do not want to hear. Here is how Barcott describes Goucher’s mind games, “her head has always messed with her. For as long as she can recall, it’s thrown hammers at her feet. Some runners have trick knees or fragile hamstrings. She has an undermining psyche.” I think any runner can identify with these feelings, imagine you are almost finished a half marathon and you see the hills that are separating you from the last few miles that would take you to the finish line, and to add to that you weren’t having a great run in the first place. You start doubting yourself and your ability to run races; all of a sudden you start hearing this voice in your head that keeps telling you that you can’t do this. This is when you need to harness everything you have and start repeating your mantra, mine is “just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo. I came up with this when I started running more often and was running longer distances.

Barcott writes of Goucher, “[she is] remarkably candid about her battle with the mental game. “Everyone has their weakness,” she says. “Mine is confidence.”” Goucher’s trainer Alberto Salazar brought in sports psychologist Darren Treasure to help combat these doubts that she was having. In the article I learned that Goucher eventually started using words such as “fighter” and “courage” to get her through the hard times in a race. I thought that that was something different, I have read articles on mantras and never thought of using one that was a single word. Since reading the article I have been channeling my inner Kara Goucher and using “fighter” to get me through the hard parts of a run. I do not run as fast or as long a distance as Goucher, nor do I even run races to compete against the other runners, but I think that using key words and mantras are key to making you feel powerful and strong.

So what does Runner’s World think you should do so you can run with mind over matter? Here are their suggestions: [Source]
  1. Worry early, not late – Gloria Balague, a sports psychologist at the University of Illinois says, “identify your worries and train to overcome them. As you get closer to race day, focus on your strengths and the body of your training work.”
  2. Employ a key word – Darren Treasure, Nike Oregon Project sports psychologist has athletes focus on a key word during intense training moments, “then when they get to a critical moment in a race, they can invoke that word and get the response they’re looking for.” Treasure does note that just chanting “win, win, win” during the course of your race won’t cut it.
  3. Enjoy the motion – Balague says you should “get in touch with your body…notice how nice the motion feels when it’s in sync – arms, legs, back, posture. The idea is to relax, not tense up, and if you’re in touch with the positive feeling, you must less likely to be tight”
  4. Define success by your progress – mental trainer Jeff Troesch says, “measure [your] success in terms of [your] personal progress. If I can do a couple more reps than I did yesterday, that’s a success. I look for ways to get the athletes into the now, to strive for day-to-day victories.”
I like the idea of focusing on daily victories, I always feel good when I run a little bit further or a little bit faster than the day before. The same is true even if I ran a shorter distance but ran it feeling happy and comfortable the whole time. I can also say the same for just enjoying the weather and the music I am listening to. If I hit a rough patch in a run I repeat my mantra and change the music to something that I know is going to help pick me up.


Do you have a mantra? What is it? Do you have any songs that pick you up when you are not feeling great?

I still use “just keep swimming” and have now started using Goucher’s “fighter” to push me through that point where I’m not feeling great, or not wanting to push that extra mile. My pick me up song is an oldie but a goodie (according to me)…Machine Head by Bush off of the album Sixteen Stone.

Happy Running!

One response to “Thanks For Making Me a Fighter

  1. Pingback: Ready To Run « Happy (Running) Thoughts

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