For those of us here in the Northeast, this winter has been brutal.  It’s been cold.  It’s been snowy.  It’s been icy.  And it has been frustrating!

As several of my coached athletes have been preparing for Spring marathons and half marathons, there have been schedule changes, outdoor runs turned into indoor runs and tight muscles from tensely running down icy streets with too little space for two cars to pass and snow banks waist high.  It’s hard to run tempo runs when your footing is unsure.  It’s hard to know if you are doing enough to reach the goals you set out for many months ago before this tough winter set in.

I’ve been thinking about this as I’m beginning to prepare for the first Spring marathon.  And I need to find the bright side.  I need there to be something good that comes from all of this hard work and dedication that these athletes have shown.

And then I realized – that’s what these athletes have gained.  There is a toughness and a resolve that training through this winter required that changes you.  Training week after week is tiresome but when the weather is nice, being outdoors can be enough to keep you going.  Training week after week when the weather seems to be conspiring against you makes you rely on something else to keep going.  Something deeper – a deeper sense of commitment, a deeper desire, a deeper resolve to get the job done.

These are skills, like muscles, that must be exercised and strengthened if you want to get better at racing.  Endurance racing requires mental toughness that meets or exceeds the physical strength acquired when training.  You must be able to dig deeper, want it badly and push past your comfort zone to achieve great results.  This is what training in the 2013-14 winter has taught us.  We might not have been able to physically train in the way we would have preferred but as a result, our mental game is that much stronger.