Today we cover the final level in the “Other People” Mental Toughness approach:
Level 3: Push yourself in their honor
Perhaps the most powerful and emotional approach is to drive yourself through the peaks and valleys of adversity in someone’s honor.
Dedicating your race to a cause, writing names your clothing or skin, wearing a photo of a loved one, kissing your wedding band, or just focusingall of your thoughts on someone — all of these are great tools that enable you to tap into an awesome level of mental strength, which will in turn yield increased physical strength and endurance.
While it helps to plan some of these in advance, especially for ultra marathons and stage races, you may also rely on this tool spontaneously during a race. Perhaps you encounter a struggling runner or know that your friend who is also racing is dealing with a rough moment in the race. Dedicate the next climb or the run up to the next checkpoint to them.
You can practice this in training as well. Dreading an upcoming long run or hill training session because of: 1) weather, 2) work schedule, 3) insert any other excuse? Write someone’s name down to dedicate that session to. Put their name on slips of paper in your rucksack, on your shirt, etc. Put all of your energy into making it your best possible effort in their honor and you will not only honor them, but you will also create a spark that will fuel you through the session as well.
When racing, consider planning ahead and dedicating segments of the course or entire stages to someone special. Bring along a photo and quotes from them. You can even surprise a friend by secretly collecting motivational messages from their loved ones and friends and then giving them to your friend during the race (if racing together) or just before. Think of the power of pulling out a photo of your mother to hold on to for Stage 3, a drawing from a cherished child for stage 4, a surprise note from a special friend or partner for stage 5, etc.
One of my most salient moments of using this technique was at the Marathon des Sables. Toward the end of the double marathon stage, I was fighting hard to finish in what had become a pretty unbelievable stage for me and I needed an extra boost to hang on to a strong finish despite a relentless headwind. I visualized seeing my closest friends and family right there in the desert at my sides and in front of me, blocking the wind. This gave an instant energy boost, but it started to fade as the wind and heat hammered at me. Right as I was starting to unravel, I decided to focus more on the fact that my “visualized” supporters were out there suffering in the heat and wind for me. I decided to focus all of my energy on running hard in their honor – to honor their suffering and pain for me. This created a rush of energy that nullified the brutality of the desert and lifted me to the finish line.
Train smart, play hard and have fun!
— Coach Jeff