Yesterday I did my designated loop I have entitled my mental toughness run. This 7.3 mile course is not the longest run I’ve ever done, but upon completing it, I reflected on why this route is so tough. And why do I insist on doing this torturous run every time I visit my parents’ cottage on the north shore of Ohio? Is there something wrong with me that I do this route multiple times a summer and secretly enjoy doing it?
My parents’ cottage is situated in Lakeside, Ohio: a quaint, gated, historic resort town on Lake Erie. Most runners visiting Lakeside choose to run around the perimeter of the village, which is just shy of 2 miles, while more serious runners do multiple loops. If I run more than 2 loops I get bored out of my mind, even though the ambience of Lakeside is quite charming. I opt to go outside the gates for anything longer than 4 miles, and most Lakesiders think I am insane for doing this. There’s simply not much to look at outside the confines of Lakeside.
My mental toughness route begins outside the gates, along Northshore Boulevard, which sounds quite fancy, but actually consists of Camp Run-in-Muck (an appropriately named campground), a few marinas with old rusty boat trailers sitting along the road, and several condo complexes. Then the fun part begins. After the first mile marker, there’s nothing but farmland. I look straight ahead, and the open road seems to go on forever. This segment actually goes for about 2 miles, then I turn left. I continue on a steep uphill turn for about 1 mile. I hug the very small shoulder, as clanging dump trucks whiz by, carrying limestone from the local quarry. Making sure I stay clear of the trucks makes it quite challenging to stay focused on my pace. Then the road straightens out into yet another open farm road called Quarry Road. This portion of the run is about 2.5 miles of gradual uphill, with zero shade, and zero scenery. During this stretch, I usually see waves of heat coming off the pavement. The final section of Quarry Road is the steepest part, cutting through a rocky landscape of an abandoned limestone quarry. Finally, during the last half mile I am rewarded with the only downhill of the entire run, which leads me back to into the welcoming gates of Lakeside.
So why do I do this run?
As I thought more about it yesterday, I realized that a challenging run like this makes me feel like I truly achieved something. When I tell friends and family my route, they usually say something like, “I can’t believe you run that way. It’s so barren and Quarry Road is all uphill.” I actually find some strange satisfaction in the fact that very few people choose to run a route like that, let alone enjoy it.
As I said in my previous post, I suggested setting short-term goals for yourself. I make a point to do the mental toughness run every time I visit my parents’ cottage. The reason I set this goal is 7 miles is a distance that makes me feel accomplished. It becomes more of an event for me. Anything less than that, I feel like it’s just an easier, typical run. That’s just where I am mentally and physically with my training. Plus this route has many challenges to overcome such as the long straightaways and hills. Everyone is different as far as a distance that makes a run feel more like an event. It feels good to test myself and see what I can do.
I highly recommend making at least one run a week an event. Go somewhere different and more challenging, like a road that has a hilly section or a trail that has difficult terrain. Or simply do that distance once a week that makes you feel accomplished. For me, it’s 7 miles or more. For you, it may be 1 mile without walking. Plan ahead and make a date with yourself. Make yourself accountable. Give the route a name, as I did with my special loop. And make sure to brag to your friends about it after you finish.