I have a confession: I sometimes cause myself quite a lot of stress trying to keep too many people happy. That often involves trying to be in too many places at once or rushing from one event to another with no hope of successfully getting to everything. I am sure I am not alone in this. Trying to do too much in any walk of life, and especially in training and racing, can often lead to a messy end.
So had a runner asked me whether I thought that on top of trying to launch a business and deal with all the work that entails, they should also run an 8km cross country race on a Saturday and then contest their club championships in a 10 mile road race the next day, I would have cocked an eyebrow and suggested that was probably a stupid idea…
Stupid is as stupid does
Which is exactly what I attempted to do. The problem was that my coach, Nick Anderson from RunningWithUs, really wanted me to run in the cross-country to build a good platform over the next few months from which to launch my spring marathon campaign. Whilst I and my club mates, wanted to run the Cabbage Patch 10 miler on Sunday to see who of us would be the first across the line and therefore the club champion for the next 12 months. So in typical fashion I decided to do both*.
So what does all that mean? Well, I guess it means that sometimes, in running, you should let your heart rule your head. Unless you are a world-class athlete, running is not going to be much more than a hobby, although it might be a hobby that you are very, very committed to. So the point of running is to enjoy yourself, get involved in the banter and competition that comes with running and test yourself to become the best runner you can be.
The accepted wisdom is that racing hard two days in a row – indeed racing hard to weekends in a row – could be too much for the body and the runner that attempts that might end up holding back in the first race in anticipation of the second race and screwing up the second race because he or she is tired from the first one.
Legends don’t play by the rules
But maybe that is a risk worth taking. I have recently been interviewing some running legends including Bill Adcocks and Steve Brace for a series of articles entitled Lessons From The Legends in Running Fitness magazine. They trained hard, very hard, and raced regularly. Steve’s nickname is Brace the Race, because of the amount of racing he did. And they both ran 2:10 for the marathon, which suggests that you can push your body much harder than perhaps you realise and not only get away with it, but even benefit from it. Even coach Nick told me this morning that he would sometimes race in the cross country on a Saturday (and he was really racing the cross-country!) and then race a 10 miler the next day as a threshold run.
So my conclusion is this. Sometimes it is good to go back to the well more than once. The sometimes in that sentence is important – I have seen, and I know, too many runners who, in Nick’s words, have their hand constantly in the cookie jar as far as hard training and racing are concerned and end up fatigued, worn out and injured as a result. But from time to time, it is great to see what you are capable of and it is highly likely that you will surprise yourself. Just make sure that you don’t get carried away and that you plan in some rest and an easy week or two afterwards to recover. I know I have!