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Mentally Tough

I’ve been a long distance runner since I was 24. I always loved pushing my physical limits but after running marathons for 10 years, I was ready for a new challenge. I did my first sprint triathlon 2007 and was hooked! Triathlon was hard but fun! It pushed me beyond what I thought possible and I wanted more.

After racing Sprint and Olympic distance triathlons for 4 years; I was itching to try my first half Ironman. I enjoyed it but knew I could get better and faster. 3 years later I needed to do a full Ironman. I enjoyed pushing my body and seeing what it was capable of during these longer events. During that first Ironman I was shocked at just how mentally tough that day was for me. It was then I realized I needed to add in a new aspect to my training.

I still swim, bike and run a lot, but I’ve added in another component to my training. I’ve worked on begin not only a physically tough athlete but a mentally tough one as well. Our mind will tell us to stop long before our body will actually die. It’s a safety feature we’ve all got built into us. And for many years, I listened to that part of my brain that said “this hurts, we’d better back off.” We can’t alway ignore that signal from the brain; sometimes it’s trying to tell us we really are damaging something and causing injury. But, often times our brain is just telling us to back off so we hurt a little less.

I’m learning to embrace that hurt. To enjoy the pain, the suffering and ultimately the reward that comes from pushing my body. Sometimes I remind myself that everyone else out racing is suffering too. How bad do I want to reach my goals? And am I willing to suffer just a little bit more than the next gal to make it happen? I’ve also started dedicating miles to those who matter in my life. Recently a dear friend who was seriously ill and unable to race with me told me to “run for me; I need that right now!” You better believe that was in my head the whole day. No matter how badly my body hurt, how labored my breathing was or how much I wanted to stop, I just couldn’t do it. I just kept telling my mind and my body, “we have to keep going!” And thanks to the motivation from that friend, I clocked my fastest run split at an Olympic distance triathlon.

I’m learning there really is more to my athletic endeavors than making sure I have a fit body when I hit the starting line. My mental training has already started to make a difference and I can’t wait to see what happens as I continue down this path. There’s a synergy between physical preparation and a strong mind and heart; this is where performance is elevated to something really special!

 Written by Melissa Stratton

Follow Melissa's journey on Instagram! @runwithmel

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