“I tell our runners to divide the race into thirds. Run the first part with your head, the middle part with your personality, and the last part with your heart.” – Mike Fanelli
There is no better quote to describe distance running than this one. Many experienced runners have said that breaking long runs or races into chunks helps you to run each section to its fullest instead of getting discouraged when you’ve only gone 3 miles into 24. Now that I’ve raced at a longer distance and work toward my first full marathon, I realize that the above is more true than ever.
Run the first part with your head: This is incredibly important, especially at the beginning of a long-distance race. You have to be smart, you have to plan out your early miles so you are poised for the next two parts. If you start off too fast, you’ll most likely have more struggles and hit the wall far earlier than if you kept track of your pacing early on. The worst part of this is, the beginning of the race is the most exciting, and it’s very difficult to keep your head during the opening miles.
The middle part with your personality: When you’re in the middle of the race, sometimes you need to get creative to keep yourself going. For example, laughing at random things, creating games with yourself to get past the next light post, or rewarding yourself with a pretzel or gel after a certain mile marker.
The last part with your heart: In the last miles of a race, each step sometimes feels like you can’t go another. This is where you need to draw on your heart, find a way to push past the pain with all that you have. I’m convinced that the last 5 miles of any race is run completely with your heart, not with your brain, not with your legs. Yes, your legs physically move you forward, but your will to go on is what carries you to the finish line.
So the next time you lace up the old shoes to head out on a double-digit run, remember that it isn’t all about the end of the race. Break it up and enjoy each section. There’s a peace that comes with knowing you completed your goal at the end. There’s a beauty that happens during those middle miles of a longer distance. And, there’s a sense of excitement of what could be at the beginning. Each is important, and if you can find a way to enjoy them for what they are, you can discover the beauty of every step.