Saturday, October 11, 2014

Week Forty-one – Mind over Matter

In an arm wrestling match who would win, your mind or your body? It depends on what your mind tells your body!

 I promise that after this week I will not to talk about fitness and running for a while but I have to share with you all my experience running my first half marathon. And I want to share this with you not to inspire you to run a marathon yourselves, but to understand how powerful your mind can be. I have spoken about this subject before in previous blogs and I have shared some amazing insights on this fascinating subject, but this week I will share with you first hand experience of my mind doing a half marathon and not me!

The 12 weeks training I endured leading up to the marathon was more of a metal training than a physical one. I was preparing myself mentally to believe I can run 21 kilometres and get there in one piece. This training required me to build my distance gradually every Saturday achieving 2k more every week and finally reaching the 21k two weeks before the actual event. When I reached this I was happy, not too exhausted and mentally prepared, or so I thought! The last two weeks leading to the day were gentle to avoid injury and be physically ready for run.

Two days before the big day I went for the last 6k run and at the end I felt my knee was not right. It was slightly soar and I began to worry. I have a knee injury, which comes on and off but now, two day before judgement day it was playing up. I don’t need to tell you that all day Saturday it hurt like hell and I was convinced I was not going to be able to make the finishing line. However, I was determined to do this so I told myself I would go, start off and if I didn’t make it to the end at least I didn’t give up that easily. Next morning I woke up, got ready and guess what? My knee felt better! My mind had won over matter!

I got there early and at the starting line I began to warm up and physic myself up to the challenge. Remember only two weeks before I had done this, with no problems at all, so I told myself I would be ok.

All runners gathered, we set off into our journey of 21 kilometres to Bournemouth Pier. I had a rough idea which way we would go and I just followed the crowd of people as we ran through the streets of Bournemouth. I was so exited to be there, in the middle of an ocean of athletes, that suddenly I heard my running app indicating we had reached the first kilometre, and now there were only 20 left to go! I was so distracted I hadn’t realised we had already been running that long. If I kept that way I would cruse this little challenge, no problem!

But soon after reality hit me! I became aware of my breathing and my heart rate as I checked it on my watch; it was high at 160, higher than normal for the first 5k considering my pace was not that fast. During the training my heart rate would have been 150 max at this stage. I also became aware of my knee; it was bothering me and began to worry me. I began to see the “elite” runners pass me by on the other side of the track; this really put me off as they looked as fresh as a cucumber! I was only a quarter of the way and my mind playing games!

I was running for charity and people began to shout my name; this lifted my sprits and I pressed on, I didn’t want to let anyone down specially myself! This helped me and I was back on track, I was not going to give up and I would make it to the end even if my knee would collapse! For the next 5k I increased my speed, I remained focused and pressed on.

As my app announced I was half way in my mind I began the countdown. During the training every time I got pass the half waypoint it became easier and always got there in good shape, so I was on a winning streak!

At kilometre 15 something unexpected happen that would test me even further on the power of my mind. At this point the way the race was laid you could see Bournemouth Pier, the finishing point of the marathon. That meant we would go back again to account for the 6k left. Cruelly but I am sure not done on purpose, we had to pass by the finishing line; this played a massive trick on my mind. I felt really tired and all I wanted to do was to stop, jump the fence and cross the line! My legs were hurting and my heart rate was almost 170, I was ready to give up, my knee was killing me! Was it matter winning over mind? Actually it was my mind telling my body to give up; I had seen the end and all I wanted to do was to finish and my body was shutting down. We passed a drink and energy gel station and I grabbed a bottle of water and a gel and almost stopped.  I didn’t, I drank and threw the bottle on the side (I always wanted to do that!!! Seen it on the telly!) and held onto my energy gel. I looked up and someone had collapsed in front of me! Was that going to be me soon? I looked at the energy gel and I said to myself “this thing must work, but I’ll take it 3k before the finishing line” Why did I do that? I knew that if I drank it then, 2k down the road I would be thinking “I’m running out of energy” and who knows if I’d would have made it. Remember last week’s blog? G’s & T’s? I need a goal, a target; something to focus on and 3k was the halfway point from here; that would be my reward.

One, two and three kilometres went by and when my app said “3 kilometres to go” I opened my energy gel and sucked it up, threw the package onto the side and raised my eyes, seeing Bournemouth pier in the distance, calling me!

I don’t know if those energy things work, never had one before, but all I know is that as ran the last 3k of my half marathon I never felt so good. I was back on track, I was ready to do this and do it in good time. Women and older runners where taking me over, I didn’t care, at this point I had one thing on my mind; I was close to the finishing line! And your knee Sergio I hear you say? What knee? I felt like Usain Bolt, fit as a fiddle and nothing was going to stop me from getting there!

I was so in the zone when I crossed the finishing line that I didn’t hear or see my family cheer me. I did hear the commentator shout my name, which made me lift my arms and cross the finishing line like I was number one! My mind had conquered over matter!

I was excused and my body ached, I struggled during the run and my pace, although good, was slower than during my training. It really shows that the pressure of being there and seeing people fail really has an influence on your performance on the day. The experience of running this half marathon really taught me how powerful our mind is and what it can do to our bodies. It’s so powerful that it can make you give up and it makes your body physically tired, it can crush your spirits and bring you down like a led balloon. Everything that was happening around me was influencing my mind, which in turn was telling my body to react accordingly. External factors affect the way we think, what we believe and how we think we can cope; our body, our sprit will just do what they are told. Mind over matter is the art of being able to block all those external influences that affect you, and turn it around focusing on what you want and not what is happening around you.

Never give up, ever! Your mind is stronger than your body; your spirit will never crush if your mind holds it high.

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