It’s getting hot out, the miles are starting to build, your body is starting to hurt, and you might be starting to think to yourself, “Is this all worth it?” If this sounds like where you are with your race prep right now, you’re not alone — every athlete has been there.
That’s right I said EVERY athlete, not just you (who might be training for your first race ever), but all athletes from the most meek amateur athletes, to the most mighty professionals, have moments where they ask themselves if it’s all worth it. The aches, the pains, the time spent away from family and friends. The physical and mental strain can indeed be overwhelming, even seemingly insurmountable at times.
Before you give up, give in, and throw in the towel, let me ask you something first. Is there anything worthwhile that you have accomplished in your life that was easy? Think about it: your career, your degree, your family, everything you’ve ever accomplished has required all of the sacrifices I mentioned above and then some.
I’ve always loved sports because they really act as a metaphor for life. I constantly use the discipline and the desire to be the best I can be that I learned from sports to help me succeed in my daily life. I draw strength from the moments in the past where I could have given in and quit, but didn’t, to help make me stronger, physically and mentally every day.
It’s that mental part I want to focus on for a moment. Being successful in life requires one essential attribute –mental toughness. The ability to control your thoughts of self-doubt, fear, and negativity can give way to empowering razor sharp focus and unparalleled drive to succeed. The common attribute of every successful person I’ve ever known is NOT that they never doubt themselves; it’s that they don’t give in to the doubt. Not that they’re not fearful, but they fight that fear. Not that they never have negative thoughts, but they push them aside as quickly as they come.
Saying this race is just about running greatly diminishes the significance of the mental toughness required to get you across the finish line on race day. You’re not racing against other people, you’re not even racing against the clock. You’re racing against your fear, your self-doubt. You’re not running to see how far you can take your body; you’re running to see how far you can push your mind! You’re running to become mentally tougher.
Mohamed Ali was once asked how many sit-ups he did in a day. His reply was “I don’t know, I only start counting when it hurts.” Ali’s greatest strength as a fighter wasn’t his incredible punch or lightning fast feet. It was his ability to overcome the natural mental tendency to give in when it’s hard. Because of that Ali became the greatest of all time.
Channel your inner Ali, and find a way to break through the barrier of self-doubt and fear. Don’t look for speed or endurance when you’re pounding the pavement, because that’s not what you need. Look hard for mental toughness and once you find it, hold on tight. It will not only get you across the finish line in this race, but also in life.