The date: Saturday, June 23rd, 2018. The place: the Placer High track in Auburn, California, the finish line of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. It was early evening, and the race course was buzzing with anticipation that the 100-mile record was about to be demolished. When Jim Walmsley rounded the top of the track, a loving crowd roared their appreciation for his marvelous achievement.
In a quiet moment at this time of year, we might find ourselves dreaming about running well in an upcoming race. But the word “dreaming” has many different meanings: we could be spending our time generating a powerful vision and intention for the future, or we could just be daydreaming and fantasizing.
And even though setting an intention and creating a vision for the future can be powerful allies, aspirations never become reality through dreaming alone. It takes sweat, determination and hard work.
In our running group, we bring the two streams together: the dreams and the sweat, the heaven and the earth. In our workouts, we spend time watching various physical and mental factors, and how they reciprocally influence each other in the present moment. Sports psychologists call this “transcending normal awareness,” an aspect of achieving “flow”(1). Virtually every level of runner can learn how to do it.
Hydration is a good example: when you’re well hydrated, you can feel your nerves “zinging.” Your receptors to the outside world open up and become highly sensitive. Insufficient fluid intake prevents those same nerve impulses from working their best; you won’t sweat as easily, your alertness won’t be as sharp, and your motivation won’t be as crisp. Of course, not everyone experiences such dramatic effects from fluid intake, but the important point is the interconnectedness between the physical and mental components that make us race-ready.
Now, the Best Part
When you’ve put in the time and energy to train properly for the physical demands of your particular event (notice I did not say “train perfectly”), you feel from the inside that you deserve to run well. You feel the relaxed confidence that comes from having done your homework, the sweet spot where preparation can shake hands with opportunity. Then, with a little luck, at some point in your race, you’ll feel an abundant spiral of physical energy well up and flow out of you. And you’ll know, with certainty, that you’re exactly where you should be.
(1) Flow in Sports, by Susan Jackson & Mihalay Czikszentmihalyi. Human Kinetics Books (1999)