Running 90% discipline

Fred Deckert


As I was being drenched by a rainstorm during my early morning run today, I couldn’t help but think about what a mental activity running really is. If genius is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration, running is surely the same way with mental discipline and talent taking those positions. Just getting started on a training run calls for drawing on your mental resources, the body follows Newton’s first law only partially, “A body at rest tends to remain at rest,” but not the next part, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.”

It takes the mind to get and keep your butt moving down the road, especially when something exciting like a race is not forthcoming. We play tricks with our minds, reflecting that we are going to feel really good when we’re finished or that we’ll earn that extra brownie after 5 or 6 miles. Or we may look forward to meeting a friend for a social type of run. There are many ways to coax ourselves into action, against the resistance of sore muscles or perceived fatigue. But, in the long run (pun ?), it’s still a mental exercise to gain physical performance from our bodies.

Mental fortitude is vital even when someone’s physical attributes are outstanding. In fact most of our exceptional runners are and were always distinguished by mental toughness. Steve Prefontaine was an example, he said if he was in contention near the end of the race he KNEW he would win because he wanted it worse than anyone else and was willing to suffer more.

For more ordinary mortals, the marathon is a proving ground for mind over matter. I doubt if anyone runs the marathon on sheer physical ability. It’s all about convincing yourself that you can do it. 42 Tallahasseans did just that at the Chicago Marathon last week.