These are great motivation pieces written by a great runner, Eric Grossman. I had to copy these from Running Times just for my own record in case this is ever removed from the site. LOVE IT! You can find it by clicking here or just read below.
I'd like to challenge you to a race. If you accept, we'll meet at a time of my choosing, run a distance of my choosing along a course that, yes, I choose. I'll inform you of my choices only as you absolutely have to know them. I'll text you 15 minutes before the start so you can get your shoes on. I'll have the course marked clearly, but you will only be able to see markings as you approach them. You will not know how far you have to go, or what lies ahead. You won't know where the finish is until you get there.
You may want know my reasons for challenging you. OK, let's say that I just want to beat you. Suppose that you also want to beat me. Will you accept? If we have similar abilities, do I gain an advantage by knowing the parameters of the race? You probably feel that I do. I'll be able to plan, after all. I'll eat the optimal pre-race foods, ensure I get enough sleep and choose the best shoes and clothes for the distance and terrain. I would certainly understand any reluctance you might feel about racing me.
What if I told you that my purpose is actually to see how fast I can get you to run? I know how you are before races. You get all wound up. You obsess over race preparation, exhausting yourself before you even start. And the night before? You barely sleep. I'm offering you a way around all that tiresome hassle. I've got your best interest at heart, so will you accept my challenge now? I want you to imagine that you can actually run better by knowing less about the race, even as you run it. You can shut down your brain and just run, pleasantly unaware of your remaining mileage. I’ll do the thinking for you, and set a pace that I think will be optimal.
Those who compete in trail races, especially trail ultramarathons, get a small taste of how this kind of challenge plays out. Trail races are difficult to measure and mark, so there is an element of surprise, especially the first time runners compete on a given course. Most race directors do not post mile markers, and even posted mileages are notoriously inaccurate. The Hellgate 100K may be the most sinister ultramarathon you can run. It starts at midnight on a Friday night in December near Fincastle, Va. I was certainly in the dark the first year I ran it. Because of snow and ice, the crew assigned to mark the course fell behind, so I ended up in front of them. Not only was I unsure of mileage, but I was also unsure of the route. When I started climbing, I had no idea whether I was in for 100 or 1,000 vertical feet. There are nine aid stations where runners can grab food, refill bottles and try to regain sanity. If you are deliberate enough while you are there, you'll think to ask about the distance to the next aid station.
After running through the night and into the frigid dawn, stamping postholes into interminable stretches of snow and ice for over 50 miles, you will arrive at the eighth Hellgate aid station. If you are collected enough to ask, they'll tell you it is 6.6 miles to the ninth, and final, aid station (click here a complete course description). That doesn't sound too bad, so you stride out on the lengthy downhill section of gravel road, thinking that this second-to-last segment will pass quickly. When you turn onto meandering single track, you are slowed. You climb hills and go around corners, always thinking that just around the next turn you'll see some sign of the aid station. It doesn't come. You were thinking you'd finish that section in an hour. You are already at 1:20. Your suffering is protracted, but what happens to your performance? Did thinking you only had 6.6 miles until the next break cause you to run a little faster than you might have had you known the actual distance was at least 8 miles? How does your consideration of the distance to be run in any race affect your pace and your perception of effort?
When Jure Robic died in a collision with a car in September, he cut short a legacy of perhaps the greatest feats of endurance achieved by any person. He rode his bicycle an average of 28,000 miles every year. He holds the world record for a 24 hour ride: 518.7 miles. He has won the Race Across America an unparalleled five times. According to a New York Times story from 2006, Robic left decisions during events to his crew, termed his "second brain." Robic was allowed to choose the music he listened to, but all the other decisions, including speed, breaks and fueling, were left to his crew. Significantly, they kept him uninformed about remaining mileages. So was keeping Robic in the dark a good way to promote top performance? Perhaps my challenge to you was not so unfair after all!
The year after I graduated from college, I traveled to Japan with an invited group of athletes to compete alongside Japanese collegians in an Ekiden. I ran the final leg, some 21K, for our eight-person team. I was handed the team sash in the middle of the countryside en route to the holy city of Ise. I ran completely alone through a light drizzle all the way to the famous Shinto shrine, where the race finished. I had no feedback about pace or distance other than my watch and my own senses. I simply ran, unreflectively soaking up the sensations of a strange land while metering out my effort. Afterwards, I had to be shown how my split stacked up against those of my Japanese counterparts. I had the second-best time for that leg.
So maybe I can persuade you that a seemingly unthinking approach to running can yield good results. That isn’t my intention. Training and racing are ultimately exercises of your intelligence. What I want is for you to broaden your concept of running intelligence to include all the things you do with and without conscious awareness. Even if you don't offload training and racing decisions to a separate crew, you should still locate and use your own second brain. It extends through your body and into every extremity. It is your activity and your feedback. You can call it intuition, but it isn't mindless, and it requires honing just like any other intelligence.
It is me.
So what do you say? Let’s see how fast we can run this thing.
Eric Grossman is a member of the Montrail ultrarunning team. At age 40, Grossman won the 2008 USATF 50-mile national championship. Check back next week for more of Grossman's motivational tips.