Mental Toughness

I just finished reading Eat and Run by Scott Jurek and was reminded about the importance of mental toughness in all sports; although keenly important in endurance sports.   Scott is an ultra-runner. The International Association of Ultrarunners discusses these events as:

The 100 km is our “flagship” since the IAAF officially sanctions this distance and also ratifies
100 km world records.

The major IAU competitions are :

  • 100 km World Championships under the patronage of the IAAF
  • 100 km Area Championships
  • 24H World Championships
  • 24H Area Championships
  • Trail World Championship
  • 50 km World Championship

So I hope you get the notion that running for 100 K to 24 hours might be difficult and require a tremendous amount of mental toughness.  As we all know, races/events require a high level of mental toughness.  However, I would argue that training requires more.  It is a lot easier to push through the pain among your competitors, but how easy is it at 5 AM and you need to get out and do that 3 hour ride before work.  And by the way, you just did intervals the day before.  And, oh yeah, you did 4 hours in the mountains the day before that.

I don’t know how physically “gifted” I am as athlete, but I do know this is one area of training that I control.  As the saying goes, hard work beats lazy talent every time.  One of the biggest goals I have as a coach is to help my athletes extend the line of suffering. (Line of Suffering = the Line at which you quit do to not being able to handle the amount of Suffering)  Nearly everyone I work with comes in with drive and talent, but nearly all of them haven’t pushed the line of suffering as far as they can go.  And it can go far.  Just explore these folks:

Diana Nyad

Navy Seals

David Blaine 

Any of these folks on the solo list

And they are just the few among the many people that seem to do the impossible.  How?  They have simply found an inner strength and drive to push the line of suffering further down the road.  Where is your line?  How far can you go?



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