Do you think I’m mental?

marathon running 

“You must be mental” is something I have heard a few times

You see, I have a bit of a fascination with pushing my body’s limits. Not long ago, I took on the challenge of running 3 marathons in 3 days, in a series of arduous endurance challenges that I set myself.

I have no problem with people calling me ‘mental’. It’s always meant in jest. For most it’s simply a lack of understanding as to why anyone would subject themselves to such a ‘mental’ undertaking.

The answer is precisely because it’s mental.

Taking on any endurance challenge requires more than just physical fitness. Obviously you have to ensure you’re taking on enough calories, fluids and salts, as well as pacing yourself and the personal admin of looking after your body. But more important than all of these is mental resilience.

I have a very busy mind, and running is a form of mindfulness for me. It fires me up and energises me. But it also calms me down. It’s a release from stressful situations but also gives me focus. I do a lot of personal problem solving and mental organising on my daily runs. It’s the purest form of exercise – a means of survival for hundreds of thousands of years – and there’s a whole load of science that links physical fitness with improved mental wellbeing.

The more gruelling the challenges I take on, the more mentally resilient I become. I want to push myself further and further. I ran my first marathon and thought, “What else am I able to achieve?” That marathon became 3 marathons in 3 days, then I climbed two of the world highest summits and entered the boxing ring for two fights, amongst a few other challenges.

These challenges are a way of channeling my personality into something that makes me better and stronger as a person. Learning to summon the mental resilience required to complete an endurance event helps develop the tools to cope with other difficulties that life has a habit of cruelly throwing at us.

If you’re thinking “I could never do that” then you’re giving up before even contemplating the challenge. It’s a sub-conscious blow to your self-esteem. I’m not suggesting that you should go out and run marathons or jump in the boxing ring, but I am suggesting that you could set yourself goals, and feel the sense of pride at achieving them.

Everyone can believe they are able to achieve.