Sunday, 8 January 2012

Running interruptus

There’s a disconnect between how I would like to run and what happens when I go out to train. Take today. Was out for an hour. Ought to be pleased with that. But I’m not. Here’s why. When I ran I kept stopping. This isn’t unusual, I do it all the time. Occasionally for good reason, usually picking up doggie doo, but more often than not for no good reason at all.  It’s annoying me. My legs don’t hurt, nor has my breath run out. There’s just a sudden loss of oomph, and I’ve stopped. But why does it happen? And what can be done about it?
On the rare occasions I’ve run with someone else, I don’t usually stop unless they are fitter than me and I can’t keep up. And in the handful of short distance races I’ve taken part in to date, I haven’t stopped either. Slowed down, yes. Trundled along, yes. Shuffled uphill, yes. But all out stopping seems to be something saved for solo training runs. 

My favourite Nike advert

So I’m thinking of doing a little experiment. I suspect my random stopping has something to do with stamina, so am going to run more slowly, and why I get to the point I feel like stopping, I just won’t stop. 
The second part of my plan is to start some visualisation exercises. Before all the purists jump in, yes, I ought to control for variables, but time is running out.
Wikipedia tells me that in one of the most well-known studies on Creative Visualization in sports, Russian scientists compared four groups of athletes competing in the Olympics in terms of their training schedules:
  • Group 1 did 100% physical training;
  • Group 2 undertook 75% physical training with 25% mental training;
  • Group 3 had a schedule comprising 50% physical training with 50% mental training;
  • Group 4 combined 25% physical training with 75% mental training.
My instinct says two things. Firstly that if I was a betting girl, my money would be on the Group 2 performers, and secondly if I had to pick a Group to be in, it would be Group 4 every time. 
Luckily I am not a betting girl, as Group 4, with 75% of their time devoted to mental training, came up trumps and performed the best. The Soviets claimed to have discovered that mental images can act as a prelude to muscular impulses. As far as I can ascertain, and I’d love to be corrected, nobody since has replicated the results, but hey, I’m game. 
My best hope is that committing to training and visualising myself running without stopping, and crossing the finish line knowing I’ve done my best run, is not only going to fix my running interruptus, but also kick things up a notch. 
Watch this pace.
In my mind’s eye, I will be crossing the finish line while doing training runs. Imagining the excitement, relief and sense of achievement I will feel as I cross that line.

How will it feel to complete the Virgin 2012 London Marathon?

These are the questions I’ll be using to help me visualise:
What does it feel like to cross the finishing line?
What can I hear?
What smells am I aware of?
What can I see?
What does my skin feel like?
How does my mouth feel?
Who can I see at the finish line?
Who will be texting to congratulate me?
What sorts of emotions will be going through me as I cross the finish line?
Whether it gets me into the top performing Group 4 or not remains to be seen, or until then, visualised. 
If all the talk about placing bets has got you jangling your change, you can sponsor me here if you haven't already.

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