I read once of the importance of a run bank. What is a run bank you might ask? Well, it is the run memories stored in your mind or in a diary. Now, I am not an expert in any way, but I know… they’re important. Every time I go for a run I am storing that experience in my run bank whether it was a good or bad run. Because one day I may have to rely upon that experience to mentally get through a tough spot on a run or during a race.
Just like keeping a run diary, you can write your experiences on paper (which is not a bad idea if you have trouble with recalling your runs) or do as I do and just do your best to remember. I record how I felt on the run, what I ate, what worked and what didn’t. Remembering these runs is an essential part to my running and training.
There are a number of runs that I have in my mental run bank. And I depend on them frequently when I run for mental fuel as much as I do good nutrition. Like the time I needed to do a long run in preparation for my most recent half marathon. I woke up that Sunday morning with an inflamed throat after receiving a few scratchy hints when I swallowed during the middle of the night that a cold was on the way. Barely able to swallow, I thought “how am I going to pull off 12 miles today?” I made the decision to run them on my treadmill. Slowly. That way if things weren’t going well I could stop. But I am very stubborn and when I put my mind to something I have a hard time NOT completing it.
I actually love my treadmill. (I will write about that another time.) I set up my standard arsenal of aides to help me through my run: box of tissue; TV on with a movie I have already seen, sound off; 24 oz. bottle of water; my shuffle; chocolate covered espresso beans in case I get tired; a GU; a fan set on the highest speed a few feet in front of me and the cell phone in case I am needed (or get bored). That day I also add some Ricola honey lemon throat lozenges. I set my treadmill to run a nice and slow pace: a 12-minute mile. I will increase this as I go, if I am feeling ok. Long story short, I did my 12 intended miles and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Then two days later, out with my run club, I carried tissue and blew my nose the entire way. I felt like crap, but I still managed to run.
I have also done a long run (10 miles) when I was hung over. Another long run during the time of month I care not to talk about. The point is, I completed all of these runs thinking initially that I would not make it through. But I did. Now, every time I feel like I can’t do a run or make it the last few miles of a long run, I remember. I pull these runs out of my bank and remember how I pushed on. I used the sore throat memory at my half marathon. If I can run twelve miles with a sore throat, I can do this half no problem since I’m feeling on top of my game! Piece of cake! And it was. A run memory with interest!
Mental adversity is the crux of a runner. I have read that running is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. I have to agree. We runners know we can run. We know we can run far distances. But even though our bodies can physically do it, our minds can control us if we are not careful. I try to spend part of my first few miles of a run visualizing the last mile. I am at my freshest at the beginning and this is a good time to put the picture of finishing in my mind. Then it will be easier to pull it out later in the run. But sometimes that doesn’t always work. Yesterday after taking three full days off of all workouts I went for a “first-time run” with a friend. When I am not alone with my thoughts and music and am engaged in conversation, I don’t always draw upon my run bank. I’m distracted. Sometimes the negative pitfalls can creep in. This time they did. Not having run consistently for the past month, I felt weak and unsure of myself. The first three and a half miles my mind was saying… “Your running has gone down the toilet,” “You’re not as strong as you were” and “God, I’m out of running shape!” I kept apologizing to my companion for my embarrassing performance after all my talk of how “fast” I was getting. It’s our first run together and I ran like a slug, like the one on the trail.
It wasn’t until the middle of the third mile that I dug into my run bank. I had done this run a few times before. Usually I run this loop at a longer distance. I knew I could do it. So I remembered those runs. And I remember the recent half marathon. “You’re a half-marathoner for Christ sakes! Buck up!” I did. I shut down the negative talk and thought about all my tough runs. I finished feeling good and will bank that run with the others. I will think, “Remember when you thought you sucked and then finished strong? Yep, it turned out great in the end.”
It seems kind of loco to think about running while you are running. I mean, shouldn’t I be thinking about other things instead? Yes, I should and I do. Yet, I also believe that thinking of my prior runs helps my current running. I remember how strong I was and am. How I pushed through when I thought I couldn’t. I’m not an expert, but I’m convinced that having a run bank is essential to being a great runner. That is what I believe. And you can take that to the bank… the run bank.