Running on empty

16 miles into a 19-mile run and I’m starting to bonk. I’m training for a marathon and I’ve been faithfully putting in the miles. I just did 17 miles 2 weeks ago with no problem at all.  Why is today different?  Maybe it’s the heat.  Maybe I didn’t drink enough water.  Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night.  All these maybes should be figured out for the next run, but right now I’m faced with the challenge of 3 more miles.   Am I going to do this or not?

You runners know how your left brain can mess with your right brain during long distances.  For you non-runners, this is the famous wall you hear about in marathons… usually in the context of someone “hitting it.”  It is sudden; it is real; and it can rob you of finishing with pride.

 Jeff Galloway recommends playing tricks on your own mind to shut down the logical left.  Talk to your body.  Tell it to ignore the doubts and fears and urges to stop.  Tell it to open up circulation to your muscles and feed off the healing energy.

I’m playing these mental games as I stare at the long stretch of Chrisman road in front of me.  I can see heat waves emanating off the pavement, distorting my vision like a desert mirage.  The water tower in the distance is my goal, the place  where I stop my watch and celebrate going 19 miles at a 12-minute pace. Am I going to walk or run right now?

When you hit an unexpected wall in any great endeavor, you have the same decision to make.  Are you going to do this or not?  It is a yes or no question. 

I visualized the future and saw myself standing at the water tower looking at my watch.  Am I celebrating success, or wallowing in regret for giving up?  Am I proud of what I’ve done or did I let an imagined “empty tank” get the best of me?  That was all it took.  I straightened up and pushed the accelerator.  I didn’t come this far to give up with the goal in sight… I ran all 3 miles.

This analogy works for many challenges you will face in your life. When you hit a wall, what will your decision be?  Are you going to do this or not?  I encourage you to look through the haze and visualize finishing with pride.  You may find your tank was not really empty after all.


Explore posts in the same categories: Motivation

8 Comments on “Running on empty”

  1. Wow. Really have been needing this. Thank you!

  2. Roland Says:

    Interesting… in the midst of the challenge, I find it most important to keep on keeping on. Once you start, don’t even think of stopping until you’re done. When the choice to select the option of quitting comes to mind, banish it forever.

    These are idealistic thoughts when you wonder if you’ll soon pass out, or your muscles will cease to function. But if one of those things were to happen, at least you would be able to reflect and say, from a spiritual standpoint, I did not give up.

    Since I am not a runner, I can only look at this through other perspectives. I used to play less than an hour and twenty minutes of racquetball with a friend, and then could hardly get off the bench to go home. Now, since building up my strengths, and recovering from a pretty severe stroke in 2005, I can boast 3 to sometimes 4 hours of nearly continuous play, and still walk out of LA Fitness without much of a limp.

    One thing that I do often, that you mentioned in your post, was visualize… “SEE yourself in the completed challenge, celebrating the accomplishment.” I see myself shooting kill shots and pass shots, and running to fetch the hard to get ones. Guys have been looking at me lately and saying, “Man, I didn’t know you could run like that…” When they first met me, I probably couldn’t.

    Visualization is key to progress. If you cannot see it happen in your mind, it probably never will. But if you imagine it can be done, and “see” it, as in believing it’s possible, it can be done. Before it is accomplished, it must be believable, and envisioned.

    Denis Waitley calls this Visual Motor Rehearsal. He says that the body, when you are envisioning, cannot tell the difference between doing it and thinking it. The muscles trigger in the same fashion. Hence, there is a priming and a building of endurance that starts in the mind, and moves to the physical body.

    …who would have guessed that one?

    As you say, David, if you see yourself running on empty, you probably are… but it starts in the mind, right?

    Good thing that no one has control over what we think!

    Thanks for the post, and reminder to see our challenges as success stories.


    • davidgoad Says:

      Roland, thanks for your always insightful comments! I’m reminded of so many stories I hear about people faced with life-or-death situatoins and they choose life. But when life is NOT on the line, where do you find the motivation?

      There is so much untapped power inside of us… I’m still learning how to get to it.

  3. Hi David! Timely as always. I’m proud of you, my friend – proud of you for continuing onward. We all must do this. It’s difficult at times to do it. But we see what we’re made of in the end… .the ‘looking back’ is always more fun when we know we did all we could. There is no regret. And I’m glad to see that you chose to keep running.

    Sometimes as adults we often forget about the childhood book “The Little Engine That Could.” I think it’s important to revisit this often — and no matter what the challenge keep that mantra of “I think I can, I think I can…” and then change it to “I know I can, I know I can….. ” 😀

    If we apply this to everything …. we’ll be living our life as our best selves.

    It’s always nice to have a cheering section. However, it has to start with each of us within first. Once we have this going… we can truly make it through anything.

    Nice post!

  4. Connie Says:


    I cheer on every single runner I see out on the road. So many times, I’ve been struggling to make that next marker on my route when one person smiles at me as I pass by, they say “good morning”, or even “good for you!” That’s all it takes. You find that last bit it takes to get to your next marker and pass through the struggle. We all need to know that our smiles, nods, and pleasant comments can make every difference to someone in whatever struggle they carry that day. Thanks for your inspiration, David. I had a break-through today on my run…and I turn 50 this Friday!!! Have a great week!


    • davidgoad Says:

      Connie that is awesome! Let me add my voice to the cheering crowd, celebrating your achievement!!

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