Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I have read about the effectiveness of mantras, such as in this article in Runner’s World, but I have usually found them limited. I have even scoffed at them.

I live in the very hilly town of Cheverly, Maryland. When I first moved here in 2003, I hated (and complained about) running these relentless hills (“rolling” would be a kind way to describe them). I think the longest flat stretch is a mere half mile. I have come to embrace the gradual uphills as “almost flat.” I am now used to doing regular old runs and long-ish runs here. I figure they make me a stronger runner and racer and I take some pride in running here.

But I am now training for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20. And I have found that, this time around, it seems much easier to do my long runs from my front door instead of driving to Rock Creek Park or the Capital Crescent Trail. By “easier” I mean mentally (I don’t need to think ahead and, say, pack a bag and plan out bathroom or water stops) and temporally (I save almost an hour of round-trip driving), not physically. 

If you drew a circle around the town, it might be four miles around, so I have to do a lot of loops and zig-zags to get a long run in; the longest so far was 18 miles, and those miles included countless hills, from short and steep ones to long and more or less gradual ones and every type in between. I have the bits of my long runs planned out so that I get some recovery and that I don’t have to go up or down the very steepest hills. (I want to conserve some energy and save my knees.)

Last weekend, running a “short” long run of 13 miles, I suddenly thought, “tumble up hill.” And I felt my effort ease as I climbed the who-knows-what-number hill of the run. Today, on a standard run of 7 miles, the mantra popped into my head again, and I felt light, as if gravity were helping me uphill.  "Tumble up hill," not "fall up hill," has energy and movement and helped me keep going (but I'm rather stubborn, so I would keep going anyway).

I have learned that, instead of being “limited,” mantras are useful to me if they are specific. Generic ones such as “rock on” or “pain is temporary” would never work for me. Tumble up hill, people. (This weekend, I'll find out if this helps with my inevitably hilly 20 miler.) 

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