-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Mental Games — Dealing With the Middle Miles

running-advice-bugThe middle miles are always the toughest. You’ll be working through a race or workout and get to the half-way point and feel a real sense of relief. And then a few minutes later you start to have this sinking feeling of despair, “I’m only half-way done!” I’ve personally always hated this feeling and I know that whether you’re an Ironman, marathon runner or even training for shorter races, it has happened to you too. Don’t worry, I can help you fix this one.

Middle MilesThe Middle Miles syndrome crops up primarily for the the same reasons that we’ve been talking all year here on the blog. Our thoughts shape our feelings. Our reactions to the physical stimuli around us are shaped by those feelings. So whether you are normally a “glass-is-half-full” type or a not, if you’re feeling dread around those middle miles you’ve moved your thoughts into the “glass-is-half-empty” zone. Once we begin to think about how far we have left to go, then everything we experience, from a little pain or a rain-shower, starts to make us feel bad.

Remember that we always craft our experience and our journey through our thought processes, so when you thought-space moves to “I have so far to go” then the natural reaction to difficulties is “I can’t go on” or “this is hard.” We need to move our thoughts back into a positive space and think “these miles are no longer than the ones I have done,” or “it’s just a little rain,” or “I’ll work through this pain in legs and feel better in a while.” We control our thoughts and thus we control the feelings that we experience.

But there are two other ways that can impact the way the Middle Miles feel in addition to moving our thoughts into a more positive space. The other two are 1) pacing and 2) nutrition. If you take all three of these items together, they form a three sided solution to that sinking feeling in that tough middle portion of the race.

When “Middle Miles” dread begins to set in, check yourself along the following lines:
– PACING — Ask yourself if you are going to fast? The body may be warning you that you have a long way left to go and that you are pushing too hard. This can be a subconscious cue that you are putting too much out there for the conditions. You may be executing your game, but the pace may be too fast for the weather, course topography (hills) or other conditions that day. You can always back off the pace, even just a little and see how this feels.
– NUTRITION — Ask yourself if you are eating enough? The body may be giving you a reminder that you’re not putting enough calories into the mix. As with pacing, this may be a reminder to check your plan and make sure that you are following it.
– THOUGHTS — Ask yourself if you are being positive and focusing on the real physical stimuli rather than fear? Common fear based reactions to the middle miles would come from a fear that you won’t have enough left to finish the race or that “something” is going to happen to keep you from finishing. Put those thoughts aside and focus on concrete stimuli like those just discussed. If the pacing is too fast, then back it off. If the legs hurt, adjust your cadence on the bike or your stride when running. If your head is wandering, feed it. But most importantly, steer your ship back into the waters of “glass-is-half-empty” and think “every mile is taking me closer to being finished” rather than “I have so far to go.”

As always, you have to be present with your thoughts and listen to the dialogue going on in your head. Pay attention and quickly get on top of these Middle Miles feelings and bring yourself back to the positive space of excitement, joy and awareness of the great adventure that you’re having.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


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