I'm reading Hal Higdon's The Marathoners on the Kindle, and am loving many things about it already. Retelling the story of Frank Shorter's marathon victory in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Higdon writes:
"The reporters who write about the marathon (at least those reporters who do not run themselves) talk often about pain as though it is something a marathoner must endure constantly for 26 miles... But a well-trained distance runner like Frank Shorter does not think about pain. He may not even feel it..."
"Pain is standing at the plate with a bat in your hand and being struck by a pitch thrown at 100mph. Pain is throwing a forward pass and getting buried beneath a 250-pound lineman... Pain is sudden and sharp. Such pain does not exist in a marathon, despite what reporters who cover these sports think."
"What does exist in a marathon is discomfort. And fatigue. And the feeling that you are not having a very good day. And the feeling that you have been running a long, long time."
"Frank did not worry about pain, discomfort or fatigue. Instead, he focused on the art of running. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other as smoothly and with as little effort as he could. Then he brough the rear foot up equally as smoothly."
"... the top runners focus their minds on the act of running. They concentrate on maintaining balance, on swinging their arms properly, on keeping their knees low, on holding a smooth stride, on breathing in rhythm.... The ability of some people to concentrate is one reason why they are superior runners."
"This is true in other sports as well. The single most important trait common in all sports, other than raw talent, is an ability to concentrate. You must have talent or you will not succeed. But you must also concentrate on what you are doing."