Every Race is an Opportunity

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Today's daily blog is a guest post from my wife, Kristen Rohde.

Enjoy! // jm


The mind is a powerful anatomical structure. It controls all actions, thoughts, feelings, and impulses, which can each be an asset or liability.

The mind is also a muscle that we must train to maintain condition. In fact, I would argue that it is just as important to condition the mind as the musculoskeletal system in competitive distance running. 

During the past year, I have dealt with a frustrating string of physical injuries that prevented me from any regular or consistent training.

Like most dedicated athletes, initially I did try to keep up the same intensity of previous training. I have a gym membership and access to exercise equipment at my office, so I had no excuses. 

Musculoskeletally, I did maintain a fraction of my prior fitness by riding the stationary bike and elliptical, but neglected the mental side of training. And it wasn't very fun — being in the gym is lonely, boring, and isolating. I missed challenging myself in workouts, long runs, races, and running with my teammates.

For at least those six months, I did not exercise my mind as a competitive distance runner, and temporarily I lost my mental edge. After these injuries healed, this was just as hard to recoup as my physical fitness. 

Fast forward three months after I could start running at least 4-5 days per week with some double digit days, I am still struggling in the psychological department of pushing myself in training and racing. It's not for lack of trying, but deconditioning of the mental aspect of knowing how far and hard to push myself. Being around and working out with teammates as well as being physically able to run races has helped, but it has been a painfully slow progression. 

After two recent races with frustratingly slow times next to my name, I am starting to regain my prior mental game.

This past weekend I lined up to run a half-marathon for fun with some friends in Nashville, Tennessee. But a couple miles into the event my competitive impulse got the better of  me. 

I opted to seize the opportunity to practice staying in the moment, racing other runners around me, in an effort to remember how hard I can push myself.

Physically, this was the furthest I have ran in over a year, and mentally, it was the longest amount of time I have had to concentrate since pre-injury.

The race itself seemed to last forever, and there were more hills than I have run in months. Seeing a finishing time that a few years ago I would have been embarrassed at, I now view it like a grade on a first quiz in a difficult class. That quiz is not my final grade, but an opportunity to learn from. And every race affords an opportunity to analyze what was successful and what to change next time. 

Week by week, I am improving both my physical and mental fitness. I've signed up for races almost every weekend because these provide a stronger learning environment for me than an endless stream of workouts.

I am truly happy to be back out competing again. Win or lose, I'm looking forward to learning and enjoying each competition for what it is — an occasion for further personal development.

And that's all I can really ask for — opportunities which teach me how to become my best self. 


Thank you | Kristen Rohde

Jonathan Marcus