By Ericka Carr |

The Bearathon is approaching quickly and Baylor’s campus is covered with runners training for the anticipated upcoming half-marathon.

As a runner, I know how important it is to be in top physical condition for a race. A person that steps up to the starting line without having trained properly is asking for an injury. Even then, training your muscles to withstand the physical demand of a half-marathon comes secondary to the mental preparation required to run long distance.

It takes a lot of mental strength to beat the “toughest half in Texas.”

The victory in beating mental challenges is the feeling you get once you’ve achieved what used to be unachievable. After much practice, you can translate that feeling of accomplishment into your race day mentality. It will carry you through the hardest parts of your race.

Here are a few ways to build mental strength by practicing control:

Controlling Your Diet

For some people, practicing control looks like adjusting your diet. Try cutting out something unhealthy that you consume in excess, like soda or sugar. Force yourself to ignore those cravings and eat less junk foods, or work to replace them with something healthier.

Controlling Your Sleep Schedule

Control can also mean managing your time better so that you go to sleep and wake up earlier. By waking up earlier, you have more time to train—or to simply enjoy a relaxing morning. Force yourself to get out of bed before snoozing your alarm seven times and ignore the part of your brain that tells you to stay in bed for five minutes longer. Prove to yourself that you have the power to control your weaknesses.

Controlling Your Workout

It’s easy to walk into the gym or onto the trail and try to finish your workout as soon as possible by doing the bare minimum. I get it— running isn’t always fun. But you can learn a lot about control by working out longer and pushing yourself even when your mind says your body feels like it’s going to give out.

Conditioning your mind is much harder than conditioning your body; your mind is more stubborn. But I cannot stress enough how important it is. I’ve been at that breaking point; I know the difference between being prepared and not being prepared.

There’s a 100-meter section of the track affectionately known as the “rigor mortis bend” to most 800-meter and 400-meter track runners. I first heard it called that in a book, but believe me when I say that the runners I competed against cursed the dreaded curve using the same name. Rigor mortis bend marks the last 200 meters of the race. It’s also the point where your body completely locks up, every muscle begins to shake and your mind is screaming at you to slow down and give up.

To help me beat rigor mortis bend, my coach would surprise me with extra sprints at the end of practice no matter how tired I was, even on the days that I gave more than my all. It was always the most painful part of training but it taught me how to give more when I think there’s nothing left.

Without mental toughness, a runner can never fully prepare their body for a race. If you stop when your brain says to, your physical readiness is going to be lacking.

So as you make last-minute preparations for the Bearathon or whatever race you have coming up in the future, know that your body can handle more than what your mind allows.