Zach Kotecki – @ZachKoteckiFitness
Mental Toughness – Zach Kotecki
“Our greatest battles are those with our own mind”
On October 8th, 2017 I ran and finished the 2017 Chicago Marathon. You will often hear from people who have ran in such races that you need to train and be well prepared to handle such a feat. I however, took a different approach. I had agreed to run in this race nearly 8 months ago while living in Illinois and my goals had thus changed since my agreement. I was now heavily into powerlifting, improving my body and getting stronger. The training styles for the two collided drastically. I couldn’t run 4-5 days a week for hours and expect to see progress inside the gym with my lifts. I chose to lift as to fit my goals and had neglected nearly all aspects of training for the marathon. I knew what I was getting myself into, but I knew what was I made of.
I believed in the power of the mind, my mental toughness and my endless determination to achieve what I desire. The day has come, someway, somehow I had to run 26.2 miles on 4.25 miles of training. That is all I ran in the 3 months leading up to the marathon and they were all done during the week of the race. We’re just minutes before the start of my wave and I am just as confident as everyone else surrounding me. Everyone who has spent the last 3 months training for this day and yet, here I am just as confident. How is this? Because the power of the mind is all I need. I knew that when my mind was telling me I was tired I wasn’t; thats just me trying to be weak, and I am far from weak. I knew that when I got tired I still had 60% left in the tank. I knew that when my legs got heavy, to run with my heart and when I started to question my ability to finish to think of the ability I still have to move. The time has come and I am off to the races.
I started out the race full of energy, pain free and with the highest of hopes of what’s about to come. Most people find it crazy and only a select few people think the way I do, but I was excited to put my body through all the pain and agony that was about to happen. I love testing my body, testing my limits and testing my mind and I knew this would also test me as a person. I kept a steady pace for the first few miles, 13 minutes a mile. Nothing spectacular but keep in mind I didn’t train and I knew this was a very, very long race that I would have to pace myself for. The longest I have ever ran in my life before was 7 miles and I knew that when I past that 7th mile marker and I still felt fine that I might just be okay after all. I’m still averaging around the same mile pace as earlier, in fact I’ve actually cut down about 30 seconds per mile. I was as focused as I’ve ever been. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, don’t stop and stay positive. That was my mindset. Next thing I knew the 13.1 mile marker was straight ahead! I couldn’t believe it. I have just done a half marathon without stopping! This was such a huge accomplishment for myself but I knew this only meant I was halfway done and some negative thoughts started to enter my mind. I quickly pushed them out and all I heard in my head was my man Zach Homol’s voice yelling, “You’re not tired, you don’t get tired” and I kept going.
19 miles. 19 consecutive miles I spent running before I was forced to a halt and walk for a brief moment. Believe me, I didn’t want to and was upset. My hamstrings were cramping, hip flexors tight, what felt like every single bone in my feet were broken and my knees were on fire. I had to give my feet a short rest from the continual hard impact with the road. I walked for probably 3/4 of a mile off and on from mile 19-21. I would walk for a minute or so, then run for as long as I could until my hamstrings cramped and my feet were calling me every name in the book. I was upset at myself for having to do so but I knew if I had any hopes of finishing the race while running, that short walk was what I needed.
Everything hurt. Every single part of my body was in pain. I knew that I was close to the end, but the miles seemed longer, the steps shorter and each one more painful than the last. I was determined to do whatever it took to finish, even if that meant injury. Like I’ve said, I’m not like most people, if I set out to do something I will do it at all costs. I looked over to my left and in the crowd cheering the runners on along the road was a man with 1 leg. The excitement expressed on his face and the encouragement in his voice was exactly what I needed. I thought to myself: this man would literally give anything to be able to be a part of this race and here I am, thinking of stopping. Immediately, I pushed away all the pain and discomfort and began to run again, all the way to the end.
For 6 hours, 6 minutes and 29 seconds all I wanted to see was mile 26. Since that 19th mile I was tested in every way possible. I wanted to quit, I wanted to walk, I wanted to cry. I just passed mile marker 26 but still had .2 miles to go. Yes, that is a big difference. At least at this point in the race. That .2 miles got real emotional for me and seemed to take forever to finish. My parents came to support me and it is at this point when I first saw them in the crowd, cheering me on. It meant the world to me and all I wanted to do was cross that finish line and hug my mom. I turned the corner and there it was, about 400 yards away, the most beautiful sign I’ve ever seen or read. Finish. I managed to pick up some speed and I ran across that line with pride.
You can physically push your body way beyond what you think it can take. In fact, the Navy Seals say your mind will want to tell your body you’re tired when you’re actually only at 40%. You have to have that mental toughness to use the 60% thats left and have your body outlast your mind. It’s up to you whether or not you will fight or give in. If you have a strong mind, you can have a strong body and vice versa. I was willing to not train for this marathon and stick to my goals inside the gym and still be crazy enough to run 26.2 miles. I do not advise this in the least, but it goes to show you that some things really just come down to how bad you really want it. You must have mental toughness.
For more articles like this, click here!