Sometimes writers raise the question, what is it that runners think about? Often the writers are looking for something beyond the inner dialogue of effort and discomfort, they’re hoping for clues to deeper meaning in the runners’ lives or even hints of spirituality.
That’s fine, but why shouldn’t runners think about the act of running? Call it being “mindful,” or just paying attention to what you’re doing.
In fact, there’s enormous interest among coaches, journalists, and psychologists in the best kind of “inner dialogue” for athletes. Often this advice focuses on confidence, determination, motivation, visualizing peak performance, or getting into the “flow.”
I was thinking about this the other day when I heard about an emergency landing of a passenger jet which had lost an engine: the pilot was lauded for keeping her cool. A former fighter pilot, she had been taught to “exude confidence,” a practice that some attribute to legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager, who once commented that as situations became more dangerous, he would speak more slowly.
This line of thought led me to conduct an experiment: I’d take some notes on my own thoughts while completing a high-intensity speed workout at the local track — an exercise that doesn’t carry the same risk as piloting a jet fighter, but which subjects the runner to high levels of discomfort and exposes him or her to heightened risk of injury. The goal of the experiment: observe how I talk to myself while running.
After the first try at this experiment, however, it became clear that what was going on in my head wasn’t a monologue, but rather a conversation among several speakers — all different parts of myself, admittedly — but with specific roles. This segregation of duties, based on my military and corporate experience, seemed to help the decision-making process during the run. Perhaps others will find it useful to organize their thoughts this way.
I’m a little nervous that this transcript may strike people as somewhat nerdy — but why shouldn’t I try to be as calm and collected as a fighter pilot?
See what you think…