Are you are new to the sport of long distance running or have been running a number of years?
There is always more one can learn.
Long distance running is an art form. Our society seems to think that running fast is the only way to create art.
People out struggling to make ends meet, juggling job and family responsibilities and still training hard are artists.
These are people that are even more focused and driven as many so called ‘elite athletes'.
You create art by committing to your own individual goals without wavering from your goals.
It is beautiful to see the Kenyan athletes running flawlessly in a marathon as if they are on autopilot but running fast does not make one athlete more worthy than the next.
Let's discuss a few strategies to get the most out of the sport we all respect and love so much.
Focus on the work
We as runners spend a great deal of time worrying if we have done enough.
Have I run enough mileage this week? Will I be prepared to hit my goal pace if I take a day off?
Your best days are not behind you!
If you haven't set a personal best in a number of months or even years, then keep trying.
If runners give in too soon they'll spend the rest of their lives asking themselves ‘what if I kept going'?
I had failed numerous times prior to breaking the 2.20 marathon barrier and could have easily let up.
I felt many times that perhaps the marathon distance wasn't for me despite having a 1.07 half-marathon personal best but I was too stubborn to let up and one day it happened.
You have to let go of what you can't control and much of that stems from focusing too long and hard over past mistakes, poor races or workouts.
This is the past even if it happened a few hours ago. Let it go!
You have to have a very short-term memory in this sport and you have to be tenacious.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the phrase, ‘flow’, it is that fleeting moment when everything goes right.
It is when all the stars align and all the work and focus you put into the task comes to fruition and ironically all of those set backs along the way are long forgotten about.
All it takes it one perfect race to change your life, mindset and drive.
How many runners do you know or have been associated with that just gave up or grew tired because results didn't come as fast as they wanted?
A common error runners make is over thinking the process.
The process is what isn't seen. The hard work, the endless miles run. The times when your friends and family even, have no idea that you are training.
Our society seems to glamour over the event (the race, the great performance) and disregard the very thing that got the athlete there in the first place, the sweat, tears and setbacks.
Don't forget where you came from. I think many at the top have forgotten that.
We salivate over the great performance yet don’t seem to focus on the enormous commitment and time it took to make that achievement a reality.
It is the process, the patience to see your fitness goals through and believing in delayed gratification, where the real power lies and the truly successful understand that well.
Don't forget to be yourself and maintain your sense of humor through this because it isn't always easy and you have to laugh at yourself to get through it sometimes.
Don’t expect it to be easy. If it were so everyone would be doing it but you can do it well and create a masterpiece through your diligent training.
Quality, not Quantity
I was coached by Lisa Rainsberger. The last American female to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon in first place.
She won in 1985, the last year there was no prize money in the event.
Lisa changed my life and helped me break the 2.20 marathon barrier, but it was a change in mindset that created a lasting impact on my running career.
Runners are already very dedicated individuals. We come from different backgrounds and have different goals but we realize that it takes dedication to achieve those goals.
They won’t fall in our laps and running is a sport that demands respect for that very reason.
Running high mileage doesn’t always yield the results we desire.
Smart Training Yields Results
Runner A has a goal to run a marathon at 7.30 mile pace and chooses to run 70 percent of his or her weekly mileage at 85 percent of their maximal effort with the last 30 percent at a comfortable effort.
This individual is running 60 miles per week
Runner B has the same goal but runs 130 miles per week, yet only 10 percent of his or her weekly mileage is comprised of running at or below their goal race pace.
Which runner do you believe will reach their goal more efficiently?
Train at race pace
It is safe to say the runner who trains at and practices their goal race pace more often will get to their objective faster and more efficiently.
They have trained their bodies to fully capitalize on the build up of lactic acid and have trained in a way where their bodies are able to still convert it to energy at higher efforts.
There is no difference between you and runners who can run faster.
Those that can have spent many years mimicking this form of training, some have more talent, yes, but less ability than you.
Don't let it hold you back.
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish – Steve Jobs
Create Your Master Plan
Strategize what will work for you and highlight the areas of your life or things you have done in the past that have hindered your athletic performance.
Could it have been lack of drive or focus?
Were you staying up too late while still juggling a full-time job while running over 60+ miles a week?
We’re you drinking enough in your long runs on the weekends?
Did you ever consider getting a weekly massage or utilizing ultrasound to repair scar tissue which can sometimes be created by being in a constant state of fatigue.
A strong, well-written long distance running training schedule that fully explains all aspects of what you are doing and why you are doing it will set you up for success.
Seek that out and you will run faster, more efficiently and will be able to react in races to any move your competitors throw at you.
Train Hard, Win Easy
Do you ever look at the Kenyans and wonder how they can look so relaxed at the start line, smiling and in a good mood and look the same way in the race?
There is a reason for that. I've lived with and trained with them.
They win because they are hungry to achieve their goals and because they know easy training does not produce fast results.
Their training is so demanding that once they get to the race, they have tapered so much of their weekly mileage that they can run much faster and for long periods of time.
Train hard, win easy is their motto.
I have lived and trained with them for the past 23 years and can tell you from experience that they are normal people with extraordinary drive and commitment to their goals.
Find Your ‘Why'
Your goal may not be to run as fast as an elite Kenyan. There is nothing wrong with that. I commend you. How many don't even get out and try to do what you are doing?
Far too many. We focus on television more than we do our health.
The fact that you are making the attempt to do something that is hard will give you the focus and drive to get through the ebbs and flows of training.
It isn’t an easy sport. Losing weight is hard and it isn’t always easy to go out in bad weather conditions when you are training for a 5K to marathon race.
You have to find what brings you alive.
What drives you to get out the door at 4am in the morning while your friends and family are still sleeping?
There is a great quote by Minister Eric Thomas that has had a powerful impact on my life.
When you want to succeed, as badly as you want to breathe, then you will be successful
How many times have you asked yourself that question?
If you have a goal of running the half marathon in under 2 hours, have you done the work to create that reality in your life?
Do you want to break 35 minutes for the 10K?
What can you do for the next 8 weeks to make that goal come to fruition?
Practice Your Goal Pace
This is a technique any athlete, regardless of ability level, can practice and create long-lasting results from.
Runners sometimes self-sabotage themselves into believing they don’t have the capability to hit a specific time goal that may seem impossible to them.
What it takes is a change in the way we train and in our mindset.
If the athlete seeks to run a marathon at 9 minute mile pace but is conducting long runs at 12 minute mile pace how will that get the athlete closer to his or her goal?
So it isn’t simply the desire that gets athletes to their goal.
There are many runners who have enormous potential in their chosen distance but far too many are training too slow.
What will separate you from the rest of your competition?
I know of two things that will, patience and persistence.
Easy vs Hard Efforts
Results come in long distance running over time.
There is a place and time for easy running and that is to build fitness, burn fat and recover from the hard workouts.
Runners cannot continue to run hard day in and day out and expect to get a return on our investment.
There is a macho factor that sometimes lives in training groups.
Who has run the most mileage. What did the gal or guy to your left or right run in last weekend's race. What awards they received etc.
You have to get your focus on your training, not all the mental flatulence that is created when you focus on what those around you are doing.
It is great other athletes are improving but at the same time that isn't going to help you. Find books that you can learn from, read posts like this that may help lift your spirit.
Focus on your nutrition.
Surround yourself with positive people that care about seeing you do great things.
The fundamentals have to be followed and that is knowing when to push and when to back off.
When to attack the workouts and challenge ourselves in tempo runs, long interval track workouts and long, sustained long runs and when to jog to recover on easy days.
This is but a short list of brief strategies you can use to keep your training under control and get to the finish line in top shape and mentally sharp to run your best.
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