The Voice

While I’m still behind in my training schedule, I’m at least upping the mileage now and getting into the routine of running most days of the week. Last night I ran part of the way home from work (5 mile) and then did the reverse this morning on the way to work. Any of you readers in London will know that last night was pretty much pouring constantly all night, so it wasn’t the nicest of conditions.

With these runs being the first real ‘challenge’ to me on my training, they brought back one of the key things that really intrigues me about distance running….The Voice.
Running is clearly a physical exercise, but distance running has a large % of it which is purely mental. (i.e. of the mind, not just ‘crazy’)
When I started jogging to keep fit about 8 years ago, I’d run for 5 minutes and my legs & lungs would be screaming at me to stop. My brain would Join in and they’d all be in synch until I stopped running.
As I gradually increased the length of my runs, my body would adapt and I could run for longer but my brain would still be nagging at me to stop from as early on as possible.
I think the human brain’s default setting is quite devious. We learn to ignore impulses, as we grow. I guess folk with Vertigo or Tourettes have a more extreme case of these impulses and therefore can’t simply pretend they aren’t there. (I know, that’s hardly scientific!) But as a runner, you constantly have this voice in your head.
“Legs are really heavy now, Come on, lets just stop”
“This rain is getting heavier, you can get a bus home from here”
“there’s no way you can keep going for another 20 mins, so you may as well quit now”
On and on it goes, and the longer the distance, the more it happens.
On my run home last night, it was pouring with rain, it’s mostly uphill it was my longest distance in about a month and I’d spent a long day at work. Perfect conditions for The Voice to try and get his way.

I’m pleased to say I managed to ignore the urges to stop on both runs, particularly because I feel if you do stop once, then it makes it harder to ignore The Voice the next time you run. It just adjusts it’s stance to “This is where you stopped last time, you know you can’t run further than this“.

I’ve spoken to other runners, so I know this next bit is not just me being a nutcase. I am referring to the conversation/debate you have in your own head with The Voice when you are running. Say you have run 6 miles, and you have 2 to go of your run but are really struggling. The Voice is chipping away at you to call a halt to it, and you think to yourself “I’ll carry on to the end of this road, that’s about 1 mile”. This thought is like an olive branch to The Voice. You’re telling it that you won’t do the whole 2 miles left, you’ll ‘meet it halfway’ and stop after 1 mile.

Except you know that you won’t.

You know if you can make it to the end of the road with 1 mile left, you’ll keep running on as far as you can. You are, in effect, pretending you are going to stop soon, to yourself, in order to stop The Voice (i.e. yourself) from trying to get you to stop!

It makes no sense, and yet it’s a sideshow that goes on in my head in most mid to long distance runs. Strange as it seems, this mental battle of wits with myself is one of the attractions running holds for me. Nothing gives you more sense of achievement than overcoming The Voice.

Anyone out there go through the same internal debate?

Graeme.

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5 thoughts on “The Voice

  1. Totally! My Voice begins early. He starts before I’ve even changed into my running gear. “Fuck it”, He says, “go later”, “do it tomorrow”, “that knee was twinging earlier, wunnit?”. He also was responsible for me finishing that bottle of Havana Club on Christmas Day.

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