Indoor Marathons and Developing Mental Toughness

Just another lap at the Hawk Indoor Marathon and 50k.

Just another lap at the Hawk Indoor Marathon and 50k.

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This podcast episode was inspired by my first ever indoor marathon -the Hawk Indoor Marathon and 50k in Hagerstown, Maryland.

If I could emphasize any one of the points about running an indoor marathon it would be to focus on your mental attitude.

Thinking and vocalizing negativity is rarely helpful. Dealing with monotony, pain, and even loneliness can be a way to develop mental toughness. Why is mental toughness so important? Because the tough stuff in life can either make us or break us.

In this post I’ll share some tips for successfully running an indoor marathon and then finish by adding a few words about developing mental toughness.

How to Have a Successful Indoor Marathon.

  1. Find out if you need to bring your own fluids, gels, fuel, etc. One added benefit to going around in circles is that you’ll have access to them throughout the race and won’t have to carry anything. Bathrooms are usually close and readily available too and they’re not the port-a-pot variety.
  2. Don’t go out too fast. Most indoor tracks are anywhere from 200-400 meters. Since it’s hard to judge your pace it’s very easy to go out too fast and fade badly in the end.
  3. Find out if they allow headphones or not. Since you’ll be running in a small area this may not be an option.
  4. Be prepared for it to be warm and dry. A big nuisance for people at indoor races is dry/chapped lips. Bring lip balm, Kleenex and anything else you’d like to have available.
  5. Ensure you make eye contact with the person who is counting your laps every time you complete a lap. The only thing more boring than running that many laps is probably watching and counting someone’s laps. If you’re going to make a pit stop, tell your counter so they know where you went and can mark down why your lap time is increased.
  6. If you want to keep track of your pace be sure to convert your anticipated pace per mile to pace per lap before the start of the race. Trying to do that kind of math while running can be quite frustrating (or impossible if your brain does math like mine).
  7. An indoor race is a great time to focus on form and consistency. There are no issues with terrain, weather changes or surface so you’ll have a unique ability to analyze your performance during and after the race. Make sure you’re running tall and keeping your stride short and quick.
  8. Be prepared with positive affirmations and mantras to help keep you going strong. This may include visiting with other runners, focusing on a power song or counting the number of laps. Remember to smile because this has been shown make the effort easier.


Developing Mental Toughness for Marathon Training

My top recommendation is to purposely and continually make yourself do the hard stuff in life. I love this quote by Iram Leon,

“If you sign up for the hard stuff, then the hard stuff in life that you don’t sign up for gets easier.”

If you haven’t heard of Iram and his story you should read this.

We all have tough stuff that life is going to throw at us but knowing that there’s a single dad with brain cancer who is staying positive and refusing to give up can provide inspiration for whatever our current situation is.

We get to pick some of the hard things in our life, but most arrive unannounced and uninvited. Having a history of building mental, physical and emotional toughness is going to help you weather the storms of life.

It’s not like you have to climb Mount Everest to build mental toughness. There are ordinary everyday experiences (and extraordinary ones too) that can add to your toughness “bank.”

I’ve had a great life so far but there have been some experiences that have helped me get stronger. Things like working and getting scholarships to pay my own way through college, walking everywhere because I couldn’t afford a car, navigating my parent’s divorce, losing a baby midway through my pregnancy and even training hard for marathons.

Your list is going to look different from mine: maybe you’ve had to navigate an illness, lost someone you loved, went through boot camp, had to rebuild your financial stability, battled depression, lost your job, overcome an addiction or faced a long-term injury. Life is full of tough stuff. But we always can choose our attitude.

I love what my friend Rhonda Foulds who we interviewed on episode #125 says,

“The only disability is a bad attitude.”

The hard stuff doesn’t have to be big choices.
It comes down to our daily choices. Will you chose to do the hard work of building a solid running base, run early in the morning or when you’re tired after work, take the stairs, respond maturely when someone attacks you, make healthy eating choices most of the time, etc?

This is just a minor example from when we were on our cruise recently. I decided to continue my running streak and made using the upper track on the ship or treadmill a priority every day. Believe me, there wasn’t as much competition for these places as there was for the buffet lines. I also chose to take the stairs even though our room was on the 2nd floor.

So look at the ordinary choices that you have to make every day. Choosing to live according to your values builds character and mental toughness and this is what you will draw on when times get tough.

Maybe there’s been a challenge that you’ve been considering. Look for opportunities to develop strength and then use it to help and encourage other people.

5 Responses to Indoor Marathons and Developing Mental Toughness

  1. Angie Spencer January 31, 2015 at 11:49 am #

    Have you found that running has helped build mental toughness and given you strength to get through other things in life?

  2. Ross Campbell February 1, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Absolutely, and the tough times in life I’ve had (divorce, unemployment, depression) have helped me run. I used to do a bit of running, then got divorced and badly depressed and put on a lot of weight. I started running again, which helped beat the depression, and I went from 1hr 10K’s to 3:45 marathons. OK, it took a couple of years, but now when things get tough (my new baby girl being hospitalised) I know I can be strong enough to make the right choices and to be the father she needs. It’s easier to eat right and run than it is to be overweight! Running also means I want to eat better and I’m happier to say no to the bad foods (and I can say ‘yes’ when I choose to because I know I can burn off the calories). I’m a lot more confident and more comfortable with who I am since I’ve been running, especially marathons.

    I’ve never been fitter, healthier or happier, all thanks to running. The marathon distance really does need the mental toughness as much as the physical, and it carries through to the rest of life.

  3. Trevor Spencer February 3, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Well said Ross!

  4. Johanna February 5, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    Okay, first of all, Angie, you look adorable in that picture of you going around the track! The headband and kilt are just too cute. And you are right about running building mental toughness (and vice versa). When a run gets tough, I think of someone I know battling cancer, or someone else I know going through a divorce, and I pray for them and it helps me keep on running. On the other hand, the discipline it takes to train seem to spill out into other areas of life for most runners I know…I guess the pain tolerance you develop from long runs increases your “pain tolerance” for “bad days” at work, traffic, etc.! Although, it definitely helps to have a good coach (like Angie )to help you build that tolerance and discipline. 😉

    • Angie Spencer February 6, 2015 at 9:08 am #

      Thank you Johanna. You’re absolutely correct that the challenges we face running long distance can easily be put into perspective by thinking about someone battling the rough events in life. It’s been exciting to see you grow as a runner and person as you take on the adventure of marathon training.

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