Community How to Train When Negative Thoughts Live in Your Brain

    How to Train When Negative Thoughts Live in Your Brain


    I am a journalist and a Toronto native and I’ve been running for 10 years. I run for my mental and physical health, to connect with others, and as a way to set big goals for myself.

    Last year I ran my first marathon at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. This summer I am training for the TCS New York City Marathon this November.

    I started training for New York in early July. Things started off well, then about three weeks in, my running hit an all time low.

    Anxiety had choked me to the point where I couldn’t run more than a couple hundred metres at a time. I would start slow and determined, but after about a minute I would lose control of my breathing, my hands would feel hot and my stomach would start churning, forcing me to stop.

    I would take a walk break then start again, a little slower, but then I would have to stop again.

    It’s overwhelming trying to train for a marathon when you can’t even make it to the end of the street.

    My running hasn’t been the same since I got COVID in March 2022. For the past year and a half, my breathing while running has become a challenge. I’ve accepted the fact that I’ve become much slower, but my breathing has become far more difficult.

    The difficult breathing triggers negative thoughts.

    Why am I doing this? Would anyone judge me if I quit?

    Thoughts of toeing the line in Staten Island this November fill me with dread. However I still have time to turn this around.

    So I am getting help.

    First I told my friends that I am struggling. I’ll try to meet for a run, but if I drop out, they understand.

    Then I booked a session with my regular therapist. Because even though I’m training for a marathon, work, family life, and dating follies . . . all take up space in my brain.

    It’s really useful to have help to sort out the rest of life’s stresses.

    I’m also working on what I can control—sleep, nutrition and more cross training.

    And I am working with my doctor to explore my medical options.

    I’ve been working to overcome my anxiety for about two weeks and I am seeing some improvement.

    Every day is a reminder to be patient and kind to myself.

    My goal for this fall is to transform my anxiety into excitement on the start line.

    Photographs courtesy of the author by


    1. Stacey, I believe you may not be fully recovered from COVID (long COVID?). Follow-up with your doctor, but this may not be solved by “just pushing though it” – you may need to listen to your body and lower your expectations.

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