The forever mile

The other night when I was racing, I had an all-too familiar experience with the mile markers. It doesn’t happen every race, but it does happen most races. It doesn’t even matter what the race distance is, be it short or be it long, it can happen. And it drives me nuts.

It was one of those times when you swear, swear, that the mile marker had to be wrong, because it took so damn long to get from one to the next. Now, sometimes they really are off, but most times, they’re pretty spot on. I think it all comes down to how you are feeling at any given point in a race. In the marathon, for instance, don’t you find that the first half just flies by? Then miles 20 to 26 of course seem to take. ALL. DAY. LONG.

For me last Saturday night it was between miles three and four that I had the forever mile experience. Mile three actually caught me off guard by coming up so fast and I thought to myself, excellent, only two to go! Then time stood still. I ran and ran and ran and it seemed I would never get to mile four. It’s no coincidence that this was the point in the race where my breathing seemed the most labored and I just couldn’t seem to move any faster, no matter what. Finally I hit four, and then five seemed back to how it should seem–about a mile.

I knew in the midst of that long mile exactly what was going on–that it was all in my head and I just needed some mind over matter. In this case I kept reminding myself that the entire race was only five miles long. I reframed it into a matter of time for myself. Realistically, I knew, I only had x number of minutes left of suffering. I’d suffered that long a million times before and I could do it again.

For me, this approach seems to help. How do you motivate when the mile(s) seem to go in slow motion? 

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  1. says

    This is great! I was just talking friends about those “forever miles” after a 10k I ran last week. For me it was mile 4 to 5 that seemed like it would never end. And, like you, I ended up breaking it down to how much time I had left to run, instead of how many miles. Looking back, I think I have the most inner dialogue/arguments with myself during those miles, but eventually convince myself to keep on truckin’ :) Knowing how great the post race rush is, is always great motivation for me to push through the pain!
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..A New Marathon Training Cycle & Training LogMy Profile

  2. says

    When I hit those forever miles during a race, I flip through my iPod to find a really motivational song. If it’s on my long runs, when I don’t run with an iPod, I sometimes use advice out of Kara Goucher’s book and just count my footfalls. It distracts your brain a little so you’re not concentrating on how lousy you feel.
    Beth recently posted..Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Race RecapMy Profile

  3. says

    I run a lot of ultras, and there always seems to be a forever mile or two in each one! I just try and stay focused and tell myself I will run through it and get back in the groove soon. My last marathon on 7/14, I hit a low spot right around mile 13, due in part to some wicked climbing and high humidity. I really did not start feeling completely better until about mile 20, but I just kept grinding, got my legs back under me and finished strong.
    Gene recently posted..Grandfather Mountain Race ReportMy Profile

  4. says

    This made me laugh because I think every race I have that dreaded “forever mile” where I am like where in the heck did the mile marker go???!!!! It is usually towards the end of the race where I am dying and just want everything to be over. When this happens I try to focus on the person in front of me or the next street sign. It gives me a distraction and makes me push myself to pass the person or get to the next point and then I pick out another street sign, person, light pole, etc. Before I know it I am finished.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Where did the weekend go?!My Profile

  5. says

    Mind over matter is SUCH a huge thing!
    Sometimes I even feel crazy long miles on training runs. In races when I feel that way I try to embrace the race and know I’ve worked hard so why not {try to} enjoy every minute. It doesn’t always work! Then I try to just get out of my head, focus on someone ahead of me, and forget about distance and how far I have left.
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Missing in {training} actionMy Profile

  6. says

    I hate forever miles. I distract myself – making up grocery lists, making up meal plans, imagine I see my ex-boyfriend or nosey distant relatives and work up a “My life is quite fabulous and I am a runner” speech in my head.
    I know I have some problems.

  7. says

    Forever miles…love this but since I am a metric ‘kid’ they are forever kilometers. I just say just keep going until the next one…then MAYBE you can slow down..

  8. says

    I have had this happen many times. It’s so frustrating! Sometimes I just think I must have missed the marker and then I just happen upon it. UGH! I usually try to tell myself the next one will come much faster:) It works sometimes.
    hikermom recently posted..What is Your Healthy?My Profile

  9. says

    For me, it’s always miles 8 to 11 that seem to drag on and are the most challenging. I typically let my mind wander then tune in to say something like “get over it” and eventually, one of those “get over it” works. I get back into a zone and keep pushing.
    Joanne recently posted..I Felt A (Capital “A”!) AMAZING!My Profile

  10. says

    I remember MANY a races where my Garmin said I had hit a mile and I’m looking, looking, looking.. Where the heck is the mile marker!!?? LOL I hate that. The treadmill def makes a mile seem longer, but I know that’s all in my head because I’m so bored! ~Nora
    Once a Runner recently posted..Just a Peek?My Profile

  11. says

    I want to first thank you for your comment today
    it really made me think and realize that you are so right and I will remember your advice,

    the forever miles…I do struggle with that…I try to not think of what is left or even the numbers…at least until I reach the half way point….I try to think of things I need to post I could write later…I sing out loud…in French so nobody can tell if I mess up or not!!!
    Caroline recently posted..New Shoes: Brooks Ghost 4My Profile

  12. says

    Forever miles…love it =) And yes, you are SO right – it happens to me at almost every race…I strain to look ahead to see the mile marker and it’s so depressing to not have one up ahead to push towards. The minutes remaining is often what I use if it’s a short race and/or I have only a handful of miles remaining. Otherwise, I try to focus on how far I’ve run in comparison to have far I have left.
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Friday Night Cry SessionMy Profile