In a race, looking back at that runner behind you he knows she knows yes you are tired you ever had that that some runner ahead of you – and maybe you are just enjoying hanging on to him. His pace is good and you are not in a hurry, you are not on the way to a podium finish you know you are spot on with your time
Then suddenly the runner in front.. he turns around, and you catch a glimpse of a face, just for a split second is it not amazing how our brains work. We see that face for an instant, but we know yes, that runner is struggling. Some internal issues going on there. Tired, dehydrated, or cannot maintain the pace, and then you notice it. I can pass this runner. I am definitely faster.
Ah wait, first let me tell you what this blog is all about. Especially if you are a first-time reader, thanks for your time. Here during these next 15 or 18 minutes let us dive into the world of the running brain. Yes, this is the show where we DON’T have any ads sorry. uuuh you must be disappointed no 4 minutes of ads, and here is a word from our sponsors. Nor do I talk about running gear, nor do we talk about running gels, nor about training plans. Here it is all about the mindset, to go far deeper than just Facebook post. A superficial inspirational quote which you enjoy reading but it doesn’t help you to get running if you have your excuses all stacked up. Nor will the -don’t ever give up- post help you when you are struggling up a hill. Do have a look at our site www.heikostribl.com you can find out more but back to the show.
Had this on a few occasions, once in a sprint triathlon I clearly remember whilst getting out of transition, I was overtaken by well first I only saw a tattoo that said something. prince, and a purple triathlon shirt. a young fit looking lady. Like in a narrow turn wow I moved aside, obviously some age grouper around a quite narrow turn she came by and we rubbed shoulders. Nothing serious, no one fell or stumbled, just a normal shuffle for position.
Now I wasn’t sure whether she had just got off the bike as I did, or whether she was on lap two. She obviously had no issues changing from the bike to running, whilst I was still cursing the bike course. Really the bike was my worst discipline anyway so the run got better, and then at the 5KM I saw a couple of runners ahead of me. Often at these events some triathletes slow down on the run so I usually overtake some and I wanted to stick to this runner cause I knew she was strong.
Though with her pace I don’t need to think so much, just stick with her and I should make time.
Just to set the scene for you. It’s a hot day, the swim for me was great, the cycle awful and now I am on a narrow path somewhere middle of the pack. And the whole run track is mixed up. You can’t tell who is on lap one or who is on lap two. Runners heading towards you, just separated by a cone so it is an exciting race environment. Oh, did I mention it was hot, so hot you felt the tarmac radiate the heat.
When suddenly at 7 KM I was surprised suddenly she looked back, over her shoulder. Just for a milli-second. Ha! Bingo, at that moment you understand the amazing power of the brain. Have you ever experienced that? You realize from one look,
A person you never met before
A facial expression you cannot even describe
But your brain picks it up. Same when I ask my daughter whether she emptied the dishwasher one look says it all.
.that the runner is in trouble. Weakness, Opportunity and now just to be sure I wasn’t getting ahead of myself, I waited for the next 500 meters or so just to see whether I am on pace. Who knows, that microsecond of a look, might lead to me unleashing serotonin and here I go running too fast and end up struggling to the finish. But nope, my time spot on actually.
Now readers this is not a race for first or second place. No gold medal waiting for this bunch of runners. And there are no spectators because well we still got about 2 KM to go. You get the picture, it is not the Olympics, just a normal sprint triathlon.
And here I am closing in on a runner, who’s split second look seemed to lead me to the conclusion that I am going to finish one position ahead.
Which won’t make a difference, because there is no trophy waiting anyway. But I am in the zone, calculating my time “this might be my best 10K time of THIS season”. If I overtake her, maybe I can overtake the runner ahead of her too. Oh how my brain doing overtime, speculation, calculation, optimism all round, victory here we come
The last KM, I am right behind her. Not being a jerk keeping distance, but close you know what I want to know. Suddenly I realize hmm looks like she’s overcome her issue because suddenly she seems to increase her speed oh, OK! It is difficult to overtake in any case, remember the cones, runners heading my way I somehow settle in behind her, and realize we are heading for a nice gentle downhill slope towards the finish line and what’s that I hear the voice of the race broadcaster not clearly just from far away, and then hang on I hear something else. Hang on, is it miss purple rain’s breathing?
Yes it was, what more did I need to know here goes. Wait for the next cone, speed up, be careful , don’t cross the centerline, keep on faster until the next cone is approaching. And what would you know, purple rain didn’t hear the doves cry, she is speeding up, and I have family waiting for me at the finish line. Come on, you really want to do this but now she couldn’t run the last couple of meters on her own, just glad to finish the event.
See, this is not about me beating or being faster than another runner. Nope. If you think it is, I didn’t explain the story properly. It is about what can happen in an instant in your brain. And of course, what you then decide to do with this information.
Amygdala, that is the part of the brain that makes judgments on intense emotions. By the way, research conducted states quite often inaccurate. The amygdala processes emotions from faces. When we look at a face whether we want to or not. The amygdala fires electrical impulses or “spikes” in response.
This research actually revealed that there are two things that happen. Wait for it, it gets interesting. One part of neurons just looks for fear or happiness. The other group, the ambiguity-coding neurons, indicates the ambiguity of the perceived emotion, irrespective of the nature of that emotion.
But hey that happened inside my brain. (or in yours if you can relate to this); why and how this happens is not just all about you, or me for that matter.
In the purple rain runner. Ok no reason to be nasty I don’t mean it like that, in the case of the lady who I overtook. Her look on her face revealed something that she didn’t plan. Nor did I plan to pick it up. The sending, receiving and translating of information just happens on a subconscious level.
The sending so to speak happens because in the limbic part of your brain, it is this factory of emotions and it has a direct influence on your facial features. The Limbic system has an emotion, curiosity, anxiety, anger, or disgust, and passes it through your motor cortex, which gives instruction as to what face you are going to display.
Absolutely incredible what we humans are capable of.
If this has ever happened to you, either being overtaken, or overtaking someone, now you understand why. You cannot hide your emotional state. It is there plain to see, and all you need is to face and look at someone.
Ok if this is too deep for you, and you want more tangible reasons here goes. Looking back, what purpose does it serve? Do you have any influence on what is going to happen? Is there any value or insight you might gain by looking back? No, all it does is, it puts you in the wrong mindset.
There is this excellent chapter in Scott Jurek’s book where he is out ahead leading the Western State and he realizes there is someone behind him. He turns his back and sees the light of a headlamp obviously on the trail. But how could this be? Even though he was told that he is leading by a margin of 20 minutes. And he describes this in a brilliant way, how his mind is getting more and more occupied with this runner who obviously is closing the gap on him, How could it be is he off pace who could it be
Well as it turns out, at the next aid station his crew tells him it was a ghost runner. Someone who is not participating in the race, just decided to join a stage. What a stupid thing to do but see it even affects a pro runner.
If you allow yourself to get distracted from your goal, which might be to run hard and as fast as you can, then you can quickly find yourself running a sub-par race. When you allow yourself to look over your shoulder you’re giving yourself permission to take your mind off your goal, which will put you in danger of getting off your race plan.
Think I am exaggerating? Ok honestly tell me How often do you find yourself getting off track at work or at home? You started your task be it at home, a hobby and then buuuum the day is over and you accomplished very little. Where did the distraction happen? You looked back.
Looking back it adds no value to your goals. Nothing. It breaks up your momentum and deteriorates your form. Running, like life, is all about efficiency. There is a physical aspect as well.
The extraneous movement takes energy running at a good pace and then turning and twisting your body. it creates “drag” in your form. See it is a break in your form to turn your head and upper body around .For what? to see who is behind you? You waste efficiency.
In life, it is never good to obsess on what is behind you and reflect on the past too much, because you lose focus on the present and what lies ahead. If you spend too much time in the past, you will lose focus on the future and will find yourself going down the wrong path altogether!
Hey, ok you can look back.. of course. Here are some reasons
Looking back should be encouraging and should give you inspiration. No, of course not looking back whilst or in a race.try to use your “looking back” to see how far you have come, what you have overcome, what you have reached. Your successes and no I don’t mean medals, or wins I am talking about those moments you achieved your own personal power moment.
And what might be to reflect on your runners’ story. Hey it is yours, yours alone. If you look back, it should be to help you stay on course of your mission, your vision as a runner. If you are stuck in some negative thoughts, it is important you make sure that there is no negative thought cycle.
How often do we look back and just remember the times where you said something stupid. Where you failed at something. Perhaps where you did something really silly, perhaps even dangerous.
Just for a minute, the show is nearly finished. I just want to set you up for a positive viewpoint. Right now, just look back at this year. Look back over your shoulder so to speak, but this time list your accomplishments. Describe a great run that you had. Did you grow during this event? List at least three examples Perhaps it was a challenge you overcame.
Write it down, don’t just think
If you enjoyed the show let us do the following first: give me a 5-star rating, it will help other people looking for such type of content to find us. If by now you have underestimated the mental approach to your running, and you know deep down inside there is more you could achieve if you just put more power, more determination behind it and finally make running a priority. But you have been thinking about it for so long. Maybe all that happened is you are a slow runner. Rather than seeing what you are capable of.
Yup, clever isn’t it? Make 365 days run, one whole year of running Why who or what would you want to do that? And if your first thought is “I couldn’t do that” then definitely you should get the book. The link to the video you know what.. just go to youtube, enter “heiko stribl” and concentrate or you will get sidetracked and end up somewhere you don’t want to be.
Life is too short for that.
And you know. There is such a powerful verse in the bible and you don’t need to be a Christian or a Christ follower hey especially if you are not. readers. Philippians 3:13
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Imagine that we should STRAIN Forward.. Paul’s goal is perfection, but he has not reached it yet. He is not faultless, nor does he expect to achieve perfection before his death. Instead, he uses the analogy of a runner in a race to depict the motivation of his spiritual life. Like a dedicated runner, he has a single goal. Just as a runner cannot be successful unless they concentrate on the race, neither can Paul be successful growing in Christ if he allows other goals to interfere.
Continuing the running analogy, Paul also chooses to live by an important principle: keeping his attention on the road in front of him. A runner cannot look back and still focus on the goal ahead. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. A runner’s goal is to focus on the next step toward his or her goal. Paul’s spiritual life is the same. He will not look back to past steps, but focus on improving each step in his race until reaching the goal of being with Christ.
Christians can learn from the past, but we are not bound to the things we have done. Instead of being chained by our past mistakes, we can move forward, knowing that we carry Christ’s forgiveness.
If you want to learn more brain training related tools especially designed for runners, have a look at www.heikostribl.com, you can go back to your cell phone addiction and scroll scroll scroll ha.. Just kidding. No, not about the www.heikostribl.com part. Making you a better, stronger and smarter runner.
God bless my name is Heiko, and remember to take it easy.