Running · Sports

The mental game

In my former life as a competitive swimmer, my mental game would determine the outcome of any race for me. If there was pressure on, I would inevitably do one of two things: kick butt and take names or choke like I needed a Heimlich. There was never any in-between—the race either went really well or really poorly.

When I wasn’t expected to PR, especially during mid-season when we were (over)trained and (over)tired, I could just go out and swim. There weren’t any expectations for me to perform. I was just supposed to get race experience. But in a pressure-filled meet, I was all or nothing.

The mental game would make or break me.

Now that I don’t have parents and a coach pushing me to practice and practice hard every day, my mental toughness comes into play not just on race day, but on any given training day. Can I make myself do the workout or am I going to give up? Can I not only make myself work out, but do everything in my power to get the most out of that particular workout? Am I giving my training my full focus and attention?

Honestly, for the last few months, I haven’t been. And the half marathon was a reality check. Do I want to be an exerciser or an athlete? Either choice is okay. But I’ve been an athlete my whole life.

I still want to be an athlete.

Scratch that. I still am an athlete.


Why yes, I did finally get a decent picture of me racing. Thanks for noticing.

On my Monday lunch break, I ran some hill repeats one street over from my building. 8 x .125 (an eighth) miles sucked. The hill was steep, my butt and my calves burned, and the people having happy lunches at the restaurant I ran past eight times probably thought I was crazy.

But that’s okay. I kept telling myself “these hills might suck—but you know what won’t suck? Passing a bunch of people on Heart Attack Hill in the Peachtree.”

I didn’t use my pacer app. I set a timer for 25 minutes and told myself to get up that hill eight times. I got up it eight times in 21:15. So I know I was holding a decent pace since I was half walking/half jogging down the hill.


I won the mental game on Monday. One battle down in the war my brain tries to start every workout.

Game. On.

How do you overcome the mental game while you’re training?

I honestly use that Winnie the Pooh quote all the time. And I focus on form when I’m tired. And how much it’s going to rock when I see the results of my hard work. And how grateful I am that I can actually do these things…the list goes on and on.

What motivates you to push through the hard workouts?

My goals. But even more than that, I use a sheer determination to finish what I started. I used to give up so easily and I want that girl to go away. So I finish each workout to the best of my ability to squash naysayer Caroline into the ground.


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