Out for another run. Today the legs are heavy. That was to be expected, after the two runs I did yesterday. But that’s why I am here, in the forest. To prove to myself I can run, when my legs don’t want to run.
Or is it my head that doesn’t want to run? Is running ultras more mental than physical? Two weeks from now I’ll know the answer from my own experience. Now it’s just a guess, and my guess is yes.
The mind is heavier than the legs
I have quoted the Flemish ultra runner Oliver Verhaege in an earlier blog. He wrote a book with the title The head weighs heavier than the legs. In the Extramilest podcast I’m listening to now, Michael Brandt, triathlete and marathon runner, says the same. It’s the mind that gives up first.
Okay, Brandt is the CEO of HVMN (Health Via Modern Nutrition), that makes ketone shots, which they call, very modestly, nature’s super fuel. Their shots are meant to keep you going.
Ketones are the new miracle fuels lots of professional athletes experiment with. Our body makes ketones. To be precise; it’s a type of chemical that our liver produces when it breaks down fats. Our body uses these ketones as a source of energy, when you run out of carbohydrates and/or when you exercise for long periods of time, for example.
The idea of companies like HVMN is that it doesn’t matter for your body if you take artificial ketones or ketones made by your body. You just take a shot of it and you feel energized again.
Maybe that energized feeling isn’t so much because your legs get new energy, rather than your brain. See, Brandt says another interesting thing in the podcast: ‘When you give up, it’s often not your quad, gluteus or calf that is making you quit. It is your brain running out of willpower. You’re running low on the ability of your brain to connect to your muscles and charge forward.’
Okay, I am not interested in taking ketones at this moment. They haven’t been part of my training. I don’t think it’s wise to change things around 2 weeks for Sussex; the longest run in my life, and the run with the most altitude. I am happy with how my training has been going, so I’m sticking with what I do. Ketones are something to research in the future.
Studying the mind
At the same time I am very interested in how our brain, and our mind works. I’ve been studying the brain and mind a lot in the last couple of years, trying to explain yoga philosophy on the basis of Western science. Now I’m running more, it looks like it’s all coming down to the brain again. Yes, I have to train my legs, but also my mind.
Okay, it’s something I’ve expected. That’s why I’m running today. That’s why I want to run 50 kilometers in a weekend. To convince myself I can do it. To be able to tell myself in Sussex, when the moment comes I want to give up, because my legs don’t want to run: ‘Just keep on running. You’ve done it before, you can do it again’.