Adding miles each week is a sly proposition. If you could run 12 miles nonstop one week ago, what is another four to six this next week for the long-run day? (A good trainer--see previous post--builds up your momentum and helps you find you groove.) A slow build with cross-training, tempo running, interval running, and weight lifting in between makes the mental game a little more palpable.
Here is how I have digested, parsed out the distance, which intimidated me in the beginning...
Know six miles by heart. I have grown to love a six-mile stretch. It’s my map of what each segment of a mile looks like. There are curves and hills to fog any feeling of a straightaway. A straightaway can be daunting because it looks forever in your face and your legs clip at a cadence of approval (or disapproval). Cut the whole distance up into chunks. Chunk it! Only focus on one segment at a time. Knock each one down to know you're one mile closer to the goal.
Dive into suffering. The more you try to avoid suffering, mask it with resistance, the more it comes back in various forms and harder then ever. When running, if something aches, I focus on it, shine a light on it in with my mind, and work through it.
Trust the struggle, the fireball in your legs. Envision a glow ball of light entering through the top of your head into the muscle region screaming and kicking, and let go of the pain...because you are a journey.
Rule out nothing; engage all senses. The metaphor of the mind-body-spirit paradigm as a tuning fork came from Most Intimate: A Zen Approach by Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara. The distinction between self and other blurs the line when in the zone of Zen. And running is Zen if you allow yourself to get there. It takes practice, awareness, and conscious effort.
The science of running and the meditation of running together can change the shape of your experience. Check out how mind can alter the science of you by these two medical doctors, one from Harvard Medical School and Tufts Medical School, both of whom authored Super Brain. Their book weaves consciousness with hard science.
All of your senses work together to heighten the realm of experience. This is why I no longer run with headphones, as I think they are a distraction of the real purpose of running, as it has become “movement meditation” for me. I let things come and go to my mind with non-attachment. Slip in and slip out go the thoughts. Miles evaporate. Minutes tear down.