I had a great conversation this evening with Mario Fraoli, an accomplished 2.28 marathoner, and senior producer of Competitor Magazine. We talked over running and racing and got me to thinking about balance.
I had an enormous opportunity to be a part of the Army World Class Athlete Program
I come from a military family and have always appreciated what our military members and their families have to endure.
Soldiers accepted into this elite unit do a great deal to market the Army, while at the same time training to compete in National and International competitions.
I have lived the life of a professional athlete. It was wonderful, but the experience taught me so much and wanted to share a few of them with you.
We all think that if we had the perfect opportunity to have all the training necessities we could run at our very best.
This could be the case. Perhaps, you have had a similar experience where there were no distractions, no worries and performed at your best, but I am going to be blunt here, you do not need an opportunity like this to be at your best.
FIND YOUR BALANCE
Balance is so important to keep things in perspective. Love running for what it can do for you health-wise. What I got caught up in was performances and living up to the high standards I had to meet in order to remain in the program. Running wasn't enjoyable and I lost the balance I desperately needed, especially in 2010.
The balance wasn't there. Mario, like myself, likes to be busy and contributing to others.
I had already worked full-time in military units prior to being ‘conditionally' accepted WCAP so already knew the dedication you have to have to achieve a goal, but here I was heading to an opportunity where I would have a coach, travel, sports medicine…you name it….
….I surely would run faster…and I did. I went from a 2.43 marathoner dropping to under 2.20…but here is the funny thing.
I didn't run 2.19 while on ‘athlete' status. I trained extremely hard trying to earn a 2008 US Olympic Marathon Trials standard and missed it horribly on both occasions in 2007 running a 2.40.02 (a small PR but far from the 2.22.00 I needed) and a 2.51.51.
I missed the 2008 US Olympic Trials by 28 days…I earned the (then) Olympic Trials “A” standard of 2.20.00 28 days after the Trials were held. I did it when all the stress and worry was taken off of me and I was working a full time job.
WHAT'S THE POINT?
I ran my fastest marathon while working full time as a staff member of the unit. It was then I ran my best. I was more focused when there was more on my plate. Have you been there?
This isn't about elite running and professional sport opportunities. It is about helping others realize their potential by finding balance in their training schedules. I bring up my experience because I was in a unique situation and know I can help someone else by telling the story.
You don't have to be an elite athlete. You could be a 35 10K runner or someone just looking to get into the sport and run your very best by keeping yourself busy.
What I value the most is seeing people who produce unworldly achievements, while totally being preoccupied with countless other tasks. The importance of balance is so important for being a better athlete, better person and in the end, achieving your goal.
WHAT I LEARNED
If you can find balance in running by simply enjoying it for what it is, a healthy activity that pays you back and not getting so caught up in hitting certain times and meeting standards set by others, you will be well on your way to running far faster then you ever thought possible.
I had a great opportunity but I lost sight of the enjoyment of running. I lost my balance and when I was placed back into a regular army unit I found myself more structured, disciplined and focused then I ever was when I was a full-time athlete.
The runners who I was competing against (and being outrun by I will also add) were working full time, had families and far more pressures on them then I had. I came from that background so I understand and how ironic it is that I started running some of the fastest time I have ever run when I got back to that mindset and lifestyle.
Find the joy in your goals. I always value the input from beginners because they have the best mindset. They want to do their best but they are going soley off their preparation and excited to see what can happen in their race.
Elite running is highly competitive and I love it, but it is also easy to lose sight of what is most important, when times and other people's expectations of you get in the way of your progression.
Balanced running does equal better running. It may be different for others but I never had a great amount of talent and have always ran my best when running, in and of itself, wasn't the only focus. Don't lose sight of what you love most about the sport. The races, times we want to run all can be completed and accomplished but it is a much easier task with balance.
What is your story? Have you run your best while being preoccupied with other responsibilities? How about when you weren't even thinking about an upcoming race? I am interested in reading what you have to say.