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Dumbo Double Dare Training - Week Eleven

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"Running is 80 percent mental." --Joan Benoit Samuelson

Over the past ten weeks, we’ve focused a lot on the physical side of completing a runDisney distance event but it’s just as important (maybe even more so) to spend time addressing the mental part of running / walking as well. All the physical preparation in the world won’t be able to overcome a poor mental experience.

In her June 2013 Runner’s World article “Beat Mental Roadblocks on the Run”, writer Michelle Hamilton looked at a study of recreational runners conducted by the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology at Minnesota State University, Makato that identified four major mental roadblocks and how ‘everyday’ athletes can work around them. If you’ve run for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced one or all of these challenges (sometimes all in a single event). It’s how we learn to avoid them the next time that will allow us to continue to improve as run/walk/run athletes.

#1 – Negative Thinking

Anyone reading this ever experienced negative thinking on your own performance? Yeah, I thought so. Why is it so easy to look at the negative side and so difficult to focus on the positive? Whether it’s a missed PR (personal record), a ‘did not finish’ (DNF) or an unexpected injury, the ‘why me’ thoughts can be our own worst enemy out on the course not only for the current race but even dragging on to the next one.

Things that go bump in the night
: Just before mile eight in the inaugural 2012 Tower of Terror 10-Miler, I had the unfortunate experience of hitting a speed-bump at full gallop just outside of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While I finished the race and the physical damage eventually healed, I developed a healthy fear of night running that hit me full-force during the follow-up ToT 10-Miler in 2013. It took over half the race to talk myself out of the expectation that I would take another tumble.

The Key to Success: The best way to manage negative thoughts is to find a way to shift the focus away from a negative to a positive. Even something as simple as distracting your mind with a special song or a smile can help push yourself back into a more favorable direction. I finally focused on enjoying the characters along the course instead of worrying about another fall which made the second half of the race much more enjoyable and fun. I still have a healthy respect for speed bumps but I’m not going to spend my time and energy worrying about a ‘what if’.

#2 - Rigid Goals

Ah the joy of performance goals. Once you have one or two distance events under your belt, it’s easy to want to start setting new challenges for yourself. Can you go faster? Can you run longer? How about placing in your age group or just moving up a start corral or two? While these are all great goals, what happens if the wheels fall off and the race you were attempted to goal in doesn’t go as planned? I’ve seen more than one terrific run / walk athlete forgo the celebration of finishing and instead beat themselves up over a goal not achieved.

When 22.4 becomes 19.3: It’s a given that temperatures over Labor Day weekend in Disneyland are going to be warm if not downright hot and 2013 proved to be no exception. I was planning on running not only the 19.3 miles of the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare Challenge but I was going to throw in the 5k as well (hey, what’s a additional 3.1 miles). With early morning temperatures 10 – 15 degrees hotter than I typically run in and a history of multiple heat exhaustion issues, I had a choice of pushing through both the 5k and 10k Saturday morning which could put the Sunday half marathon in jeopardy or I could drop the 5k and take it easy during the 10k which would still earn me the Dumbo medal if I then completed the half on Sunday. Decisions, decisions.

The Key to Success: According to the study, try not to fixate exclusively on a single goal but develop a secondary or backup goal as well. The first goal should be based on a ‘if everything goes perfect’ scenario while the second goal should be more realistic but still should make you happy to achieve. Although my initial goal was to run all three Disneyland Half Marathon weekend events, given the less-than-perfect running weather and my history with heat issues, I made the difficult call to go with my backup goal to just safely and sanely finish the two Dumbo events and earn the inaugural Dumbo Double Dare medal. And as much as I struggled with the heat on Sunday, it turned out to be the right decision.

#3 Doubts

A close cousin of negative thinking, doubting your own abilities can create havoc with your race performance especially when trying something different like a new distance or event. If you don’t think you can do it, that little voice in your head is going to be proved right unless you take action to silence it.

What was I thinking: In 2007, I set a goal for myself to run my first marathon. When that didn’t happen due to a major life challenge, I didn’t revisit the goal until 2012 when I put the 2013 WDW Marathon 20th anniversary event in my sight. Given my travel work schedule, I was already nervous and concerned about finishing but the tumble at 2012 Tower of Terror 10-Miler in late September put not only a major crimp in my training but cemented the doubt in my ability to go 26.2. By the marathon race morning in January, I was a basket case of nerves and doubt and almost didn’t leave the hotel to start the race.

The Key to Success
: According to the study, take advantage of social media and go public with your doubts or logically look at evidence that would point you to a different and more positive conclusion. Although you might run into a troll or two on the web, the majority of folks who respond to you will help erase your doubts by providing encouragement and may even provide their own experiences you can learn from. In my case, I had told way too many people that I was doing my first marathon and I was already committed to write about the experience for MousePlanet which was a commitment I had to keep. Thomas, my CSO (Chief Support Officer), also helped me see that my training, while not perfect, was still good enough to get me across the finish line. Sometimes it takes a village to push a runner out the door.

#4 Unfair Comparisons to Others

The ‘everyone is obviously better/faster/stronger than I am’ problem. How many of us have looked around the race corrals and thought everyone there looked stronger and faster? No matter the amount of training we have completed, we just don’t measure up to the competition.

Little Purple Dots: Years ago when I first started running in smaller local 5ks and 10ks, I quickly learned I could tell who was in my age group by the color of the stickers on their race bibs. Prior to the race start, I would spend a ridiculous amount of time looking at everyone's bib trying to assess who the 'competition' was. Once I knew who I was running against, I then tried to determine if someone was faster than me just by examining their build or their shoes or their coordinated race outfit (seriously, if the shorts, top, and shoes matched, they must be fast). I spent a lot of time being intimidated by the competition before we even took at step on the course.

The Key to Success: The final conclusion of the study calls for bringing the attention back to yourself by internally focusing on what you can control, not what someone else may (or may not) be able to accomplish. Visualize why you (and you alone) are running / walking the race be it a a cool t-shirt or finisher’s medal and use that desire to push yourself past the comparisons. I finally stopped obsessing about the others in my age group and focused on pushing myself to get faster and stronger (and better coordinated). About the time I started cruising past the ‘coordinated outfit’ folks and was passed by people who didn’t fit my vision of a what a ‘real runner’ looked like, I knew that judging an athlete on what they project on the outside and not on their actual abilities is a waste of time. Not every fast athlete looks fast and not every fast-looking athlete could beat me. Focusing on my own growth as a runner was the best way to get me from the start to the finish line.

As we move through the next few weeks of the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge, take time to work not only on your running but also on your mental strength as well. You’ll become a better and more successful athlete if you can put all the pieces together.

We’re in another drop-back week for our long run and it’s another Magic Miler.

  • Monday – Barre3 (video)
  • Tuesday – 30 to 45 minutes running
  • Wednesday - weight training
  • Thursday - 30 to 45 minutes running (travel day)
  • Friday – rest
  • Saturday – 4 mile run (Magic Mile)
  • Sunday – rest (travel day)

Enjoy the lower miles this week. Next week we return to back-to-back running / walking days and we start double-digit long runs as we continue training for the 2014 Dumbo Double Dare Challenge.

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Updated 07-07-2014 at 11:22 AM by RunningFool

Team MousePlanet , Featured


  1. olegc's Avatar
    thanks for this. I am definitely having a case of #3's and maybe 4s. Its my first event - and I went after half because the 10k was full and I really REALLY wanted to do the avengers event. THen I went bananas and registered for Star Wars Rebel Challenge. I know November is a ways off but I am already having doubts during my week and at times makes me whirl with thoughts of "will I get faster? will I get swept?" because my pace right now is right at 16. I know - training each week will get stronger - but right now it seems even the 30 minutes are wrought with signs of struggle. Happy thoughts as they say.
  2. RunningFool's Avatar
    You will get faster and it will get easier - it's the building process that just takes time and patience. Just keep doing what you are doing and when you critique yourself and/or your training, always start with one positive thing to celebrate instead of jumping into the negative. And set small goals instead of one big one. It may be something silly (gee, I didn't sweat nearly as much today as I did yesterday) or it may be something you are doing to train (got myself out the door today much easier than on Monday) but starting with smaller goals won't feel quite so 'oh dear heavens I signed up for a half marathon' overwhelming.