Marathon Muscle – Mental Toughness

“Mental Toughness is essential to success.” – Vince Lombardi

It’s been a while since I have posted an update.  I’ve been swamped with work, starting most days at 9am and walking off the soccer field at 9pm.  Managing an hour and a half journey home, writing is the last thing on my mind.  I’m not doing you or myself justice by making excuses.  Weekly updates will be coming from now on.

I kept myself from attempting to run the 13 mile distance for years.  Not because I couldn’t manage the distance.  The body is capable of adapting to new challenges quicker than most expect.  Even the mental side of pushing myself through distances I have never run has never put me off.  Boredom, on the other hand, was a big factor.  The Kris Gethin 12 week muscle builder contained workouts that took close to 2 and a half hours to complete.  For any normal human that is an insane amount of time to work the body.

What those workouts did provide however, was variation.  Changes in exercises, rep ranges and weight lifted allowed my mind to stop getting stale.  Running long distances does not allow for this.  It’s one step in front of the other, over and over again.  For me, the boredom of running a very similar route, 3 times a week, with increased time every week is dull.  I love the people of Lexington, NC but it’s a boring place to run around.  My schedule is now allowing a new part of Durham, NC to be used for my extended distance run and it’s VERY good.


Seated Calf Press

Mentally, I have appreciated only being in the gym 3 times a week.  It’s made me realize just how little else I do being in their 5 days a week.  Some people love it, but I want a life outside of the gym as well. This program has allowed for that.

Where as the previous trainer had a volume point of view, I have set mine I feel in a similar way to the Modern Physique program.  I want functional capability as well as aesthetic muscle.  Strength and power exercises have played a big part in my weight training plan.  Strength & power training has been proven to aid muscular endurance in long distance runners (study) and help improve running time (study).

Using what I have learned from previous trainers, I’ve been performing power squats on leg day (4 sets of 5 with a lighter weight, pausing at the bottom before exploding up), with strength training on the upper body (bench press, pull ups and barbell shoulder press).  I’m concerned that my legs will be too stiff the following day, so I’m going lighter than I can.  Each week I’ve tried to add 5lbs to specific exercise, so my strength and mass is gaining gradually.

Though I’ve lost weight, I am feeling bulkier.  I’ve added muscle to my shoulders, chest, back and arms.  Perhaps more importantly, my abs are feeling tighter.  I don’t recall ever having tight abs.  It will help with my running technique, which is average at best.


Coming 3 days after my first ever 8 mile run, I can safely say I’m going to have to do something different to help my hip flexors.  I spent the whole of Tuesday limping post-run.  This was despite completing 8 miles in 1:05 hours, at an average pace of 8:11 a mile.  I was coaching my U12 soccer team in the evening and could barely walk during my demos.  At one point I had to demonstrate something that required my lifting my right leg.  I couldn’t.  Miserable old man syndrome struck – moaning about my hip!

During the run I felt fantastic.  I was able to time my increases in speed quite well and finished strong for a man who hasn’t run that far before.  My target of beating 2 hours is on target.  Despite this, I’ll have to do something about my hips.  It can’t be good to be struggling to walk for a day after a run.  I’ve had to go even lighter at the gym on my legs today and not been able to run since.

Saying that the American Tobacco Trail is a terrific route to run.  Markings every 1/4 mile for added motivation.

Someone I know who has run a few half marathons suggested foam rolling.  2 things about foam rolling -1) It works and 2) it hurts!  However, the pain will be worth it in comparison to the pain I was in earlier this week.  I’ve been told it gets better as well.

I’ve been introduced to GU Energy Gels, providing a hit of caffeine, amino acids and carbohydrates mid-run.  They’re very useful after half way and are easy to consume without stopping.  Take it in small doses though.  It may be my colitis, but my arse nearly went with about 3 miles to go.


Looking at my pics, I’ve definitely dropped some fat.  My waist is appearing thinner and my muscle is looking more defined.  I feel as though I have added size around my chest over the past few weeks, as well as my arms.

Being able to run 3 sub minute miles having already run 5 is excellent.  If I keep this up I’ll be on course to run 13.1 miles in 1 hour & 45 minutes, much quicker than the 2 hour target I have set.  Runkeeper has been a big help in monitoring my progress.  Keeping track of my time, distance and average pace is vital for hitting my target and Runkeeper does as good a job as any app.


  • Use a foam roller to roll your hips pre-run and workout.  Hip flexor injuries are common in distance runners.
  • Use strength training (highest weight, minimal reps) to aid growth and running performance
  • Have a training aid during the run.  GU energy gels are perfect for avoiding the mid-run slump.

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Comments 3

  • Top Bombing Dave. Keep going.!

  • Thank you for sharing your tips. I have learned a lot of tips on leg strength from the Runners magazine. I found that running intervals helped me increase strength and my endurance. I would do that a few times a week followed by a longer run the next day. I also found that doing dynamic stretches definitely helped with the quality of my run. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for the tips Dagmara. I’ve always been a sucker for not stretching pre-exercise and in my younger years I was able to get away with it. Dynamics will be a staple part of my pre-run routine from now on.

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