What advice would you give your younger self about distance running?
Would you share only the good or would you be more critical and share some of the pitfalls you’ve experienced?
Would you remind your younger self that the running journey you’re on should be thought of like a marathon rather than a sprint?
If I could go back and tell anything to my younger, running self, I’d probably clue myself in that while the highs will be really high, I’ll also have some low-points. I’d tell myself that it’s ok to take a step back, but it’s also ok to push yourself.
Armed with the knowledge I have now about training, racing, longevity, and competing, these are the 9 areas I’d focus my attention on.
There’s nothing worse than going full steam ahead only to fizzle out and die off before the end. Instead, I’ve learned to back off and find that happy medium; somewhere between all-out and doing nothing. It’s been a change, but I’m happier than I’ve been in quite some time.
Run by Feel
Perceived effort isn’t just fluff, it’s a way to really think about the effort you’re putting out and how it relates to your overall state of being. Rather than relying on a watch, I rely on my breathing.
I focus on whether the effort I’m putting out is matching the effort I feel I should be putting out. My body is in harmony when the actual effort and my perceived effort match. For example, my watch might be telling me I’m running 7 minutes a mile and the effort I perceive I’m putting out relates similarly. On the flip side, if there’s a hill, I try and maintain the same effort rather than trying to hit the same mile split. The watch and my perceived effort won’t match, so I don’t always rely on my GPS watch.
Know the Course
Literally speaking, it’s really nice to know the course I’m running. Whether it’s race day and I want to do well or have a general idea about how far away something is so I don’t head out the door for a 4-mile run and come back at 9 miles. Having awareness about my surroundings is key and this helps stay focused and determined. Sure, you may not be winning every race, but you should still want to know where you’re going. If you’re not prepared for hills or trails, knowing the course beforehand can help you mentally and physically prepare for what lies ahead.
Metaphorically speaking, knowing the course is also important. To get my coaching business up and running, I’ve had to say yes more often than no. As I move into the second 8 years, I’ll be focusing more on only what truly moves me to say “hell yeah”. Otherwise, doing what I don’t like doing would go against the “know the course” mantra and pull me away from my goals.
Be Wise About Excuses
If a run is getting away from me, there might be a good reason to cut it short. If you’re hurt or in danger of getting hurt, stop running. If, however, you’re being “soft”, try to focus on the positives and keep plugging away. Remember, once you drop out of one race, it becomes a lot easier to do it again next time things get rough.
Running is so much more than an individual sport. These days, I am always looking for ways to incorporate the social aspect of running into my own running. I would like to start warming up with someone new before a race or cooling down with friends after the race. I’d like to have more company on the easy runs I do because I know the company will give me added motivation.
Expect the Unexpected
There’s always the possibility of something going wrong. The longer the race, the more likely that will be the case. Yes, things can go sideways in a mile if you really let them, but chances are, they’re going to go bad over the longer race distances. One of the things I like about myself is my ability to roll with the punches, but to also be very planned and calculated. I think they work well together and I’d like to keep drawing on these two skills.
Be Mentally Tough
The more I run, the more I build up my toughness. When things go wrong, I can call on my toughness to get me through those situations. I’ve worked on different situations and scenarios in practice so that I can put them in use during a race or a hard day teaching.
Use Your Experience
I’ve seen a lot, I’ve experienced a lot and it’s important that I use these skills to help the runners I coach. I can explain to them why going out in control is beneficial to their race day success.
As a runner, I can use my race savvy skills to my advantage. I can push when I need to and chill out when I can. I know my limits, but I’m not afraid to push the boundaries a little.
More than anything, happiness must shine through. When I’m happy, you’re happy. When things are going well, they’re going well for everyone.
These 9 different categories are broadly based on my thoughts and experiences working with long-distance runners. Not every category or topic will truly fit into the box of what I’d tell my younger self, but generally speaking, yes, these are things I’d tell my 14 or 15-year-old self when I first started running competitively. I’d warn him/me of the pitfalls of not having a plan or any direction. I’d remind myself that no matter what, I’d better be having fun or I won’t stick to it.
I know that they don’t all relate to running either, but at the end of the day, life isn’t all about running. Some of these relate to coaching and others to my teaching profession. All in all, they are pretty good guiding principles on how I try and live my one life.