By Karen Bonnett-Natraj
When was the last time you planned a DNF?
What strategies did you draft to ensure a “Did Not Finish”? Your probable responses are “Never” and “None”. Nobody begins a race anticipating they won’t cross the finish line, especially after extensive preparation. However, DNFs happen, raising the question:
“What now? “DNFs occur due to various reasons—
- It happens due to injury.
- It happens due to timing out.
- It happens due to dehydration.
- It happens due to nutrition.
- It happens due to the inability to keep liquids /food down.
- It happens due to illness.
- It happens due to a lack of Mental Fitness.
My experience at the Stagecoach 100-mile run, a commendable event running from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon Rim, stands testament to this.
I had left no stone unturned in my training, ticking off every box from hydration to calorie intake, and the initial 53 miles were like a dream, every step seemed to echo a serene rhythm.
But, as the night shrouded the trail, the absence of a pacer made each mile a challenge, frustration and pain were my only companions. The battles were not just physical; every stumble and every ache was a mental struggle, a silent dialogue between the mind’s resilience and the body’s protest.
My crew and race director Ian seemed to be the whisperers of encouragement, pushing me through the grit, and helping me reach mile 96, despite the tormenting pain in my lower back.
If I had someone constantly by my side, urging me to consume the right nutrients, perhaps the struggle wouldn’t have been this intense.
It highlighted a crucial realization – our minds are masters of illusion, painting pictures of wellness and strength, even when our bodies are screaming the opposite.
Have you ever felt this dichotomy, the deceptive assurance from your mind while your body was on the verge of giving up?
The Battle of the Mind: Overcoming Inner Struggles
Mental Fitness is the lifeline that pulls us through the highs and lows, especially when the journey becomes a battle. In my experience, while my mind was armored with resilience, my body was waging its own war.
Transforming Mental Dialogues:
The mind’s chatter can be the unseen force steering the race’s outcome. Here are some illustrations of how mental dialogues can steer your race journey:
- “Am I even good enough, fast enough? Why bother!”—the self-pity trap.
- “This is painful; what was I thinking? I quit!”—the surrender.
- “This is just a waste of money and effort”—rationalization.
- “How can I recover and emerge stronger for next time?”—compassion and reflection.
- “How can I learn and evolve from this experience?”—seeking opportunities.
- “Everything happens for a reason”—embracing synchronicity.
Strategies for Mental Fitness:
Here are some supportive insights for those challenging times when you might not finish your race:
- Seek Medical Advice: If severely injured, prioritize your health and seek immediate medical attention.
- Celebrate Your Effort: If you time out, applaud yourself for the distance conquered and the effort invested. Remember, your adventurous spirit sets you apart; offer yourself the encouragement you would extend to your best friend.
- Hydration and Nutrition: Perfect your hydration and nutrition during training to discover what complements your body’s needs.
- Mental Fitness Practice: Dismiss the internal critic and its doubts; it has no place in your race. Reflect on the narrative you’re creating for yourself and question its validity. Remind yourself that nobody starts a race aiming for the worst. Cherish your perseverance and efforts; they are the reflections of your remarkable spirit.
The journey of a race is as much about overcoming mental hurdles as it is about physical endurance. Embrace the learning, hold onto the positive dialogues, and remember, every step, every mile is a testament to your incredible strength and spirit.