The storm is coming

Think back if you will, to the point before your marathon preparation cycle started. Let’s take November last year for example. Whether or not you raced last autumn, it is highly likely that last November you were not training for anything specific. Wasn’t that a lovely time? Blissful in fact. You were running, sure, but it was base building stuff – more steady runs and less sessions. Maybe even skipping a run or two if life or work got in the way.

But now, if you listen carefully, you can hear the rumble of the approaching spring marathon. Coming like a train down the tracks, ever day it is getting closer and closer…

And the training is getting harder and harder.

Welcome to the Twiglet Zone.

As I look around me at my compatriots, my training partners and the people I have contact with through this blog or through social media, the incidences of injury and tiredness are becoming more and more common.

At the track last night, people were missing. Others didn’t manage to finish the session. The recoveries between reps stretched out from 60 seconds initially to 75 seconds.

I have heard from friends who are starting to get over stretched. Little injuries are appearing. General fatigue is setting in.

I’m suffering too. As I write this I am sat on the sofa with my feet up and a cup of tea, like an old man. I felt OK after my track session last night, but a combination of a hard session, a rather restless night and possibly not eating very sensibly after the track last night, left me feeling utterly drained as I went out for my run this morning. I managed the 60 minutes and kept to the pace that I usually manage for those runs, but I felt ragged and there were several very sore spots in my legs – right calf, back of the left knee and both quads. I was in a sorry state!

But I have now got to the point where I realise this is all part of the training. If you want to be the best runner you can be, you have to manage these difficult periods. Training for a marathon involves having injuries treated or resting them for a few days. It involved making sure there is enough food in the house. It requires making sure that you create the environment that will allow you to sleep properly. And most of all, training to run the best marathon you can (or excelling in any sporting endeavor for that matter) requires you to embrace the challenges that come with training hard and the build-up of fatigue that is part and parcel of training week in, week out.

Professional athletes suffer too!

It is tempting when you see the runners at the top of their field, floating along at super-human speeds, to thing that the pros have it easy all the time, but that is far from the truth. Check out Jessica Ennis in this BBC film, at about 4min 25sec talking about the struggle of getting out of bed when the weather is horrible and she feels broken from all the training. Or consider Julia Bleasdale, who I interviewed recently, who told me that

Sometimes when I am really tired and I have a second run to do and the weather is miserable – those runs are very difficult, but of course they can also be the most beneficial.

What the pros know is that when it comes to the day of the race or event, all the hard training will pay off and succeeding will look easy. That is what we have to focus on – the end goal.

So, there is no way to sugar-coat this. If running a marathon was easy, there would be NO POINT DOING IT. We do it because it is hard and because it is a challenge. But in reality the bulk of the challenge is now, not on the day. So get that injury fixed and make sure you have the right stuff and the right environment to train hard and recover. And visualise the moment when you achieve your aim… I promise you: the pain and fatigue you feel now will pale into insignificance on the day. You didn’t really think it would be easy, did you?

The danger of generic – free – training schedules

One of my pet hates is people providing incorrect information or unqualified opinions without bothering to check what they are saying. I’ll give you an example – I know that the new film in the Bourne franchise is due out on DVD on Monday. I strolled in to my local HMV store today and asked one of the shop assistants when they would have it in stock…

Erm, It’s like not out for another three weeks or something – we’ll have it then

Why, if he clearly didn’t know the answer to my question, did he feel the need to tell me something patently not true? And worse, for HMV, he is doing his employer a massive disservice giving people false information that will potentially damage sales. Hrumpf.

But actually I don’t care about HMVs profits and to be frank, if a company employs people who stretch their earlobes and get ironic neck tattoos and think that is a good way to build the business, then they deserve what is coming to them.

What has that got to do with running?

Dis-information is all around us. Take running for example. Anywhere that runners gather, you will likely find someone spouting off about the importance of never stretching or eating your body weight in pasta every day or running around the streets of your city with no shoes on. And the internet only serves to amplify this tendency for some people to say whatever comes into their heads and expect other people to take it as the gospel truth… take free downloadable training plans for example.

A quick search of the world wide web will reveal thousands of ‘free’ marathon training plans that you can download and print out and selotape to your fridge door to guide you through the weeks and months of preparing for a marathon. The problem is that they are – to a greater or lesser degree – wrong. At least they are for you.

What is the problem with free training plans?

This little rant has been inspired by a conversation on twitter that I was involved in a few weeks ago. A contact asked a number of people for a recommendation for a training plan. I suggested a few books that I believe explain the principles of endurance training and provide useful sample training plans and then came the all too familiar response:

Oh I really don’t want to spend any money – I only want free training plans

Now why is that? Perhaps the answer is that the person looking for free plans doesn’t put any value of the years of experience and knowledge that the authors of good training manuals have acquired? Which means – and this is where I get really frustrated – that they don’t put any value on their training OR the end goal they are trying to achieve.

Can it be right that £12.99 and a few hours of reading and studying is more than our intrepid runner is prepared to spend on achieving their goal?

The truth is that generic training plans are never going to be exactly what you need for your training. How can they be? The author has never met you, knows nothing about you and doesn’t even understand the basics of you life and your goals, like whether you work in a manual job or you have three children or you are aiming to break two and a half hours for the marathon.

And I think it is stupid to expect anything useful from a free training plan that you download from a website, after all you would never expect to ask someone for directions without telling them where you are going, how long you have to get there and how you are going to travel, would you?

So what is the answer?

Which brings me back to the start – people, often without malice, will tell you rubbish from time to time. There is no way to avoid that. Worse, some of them will write down what worked for them – or what they would like the world to believe worked for them (“Oh I ran over 100 miles a week every week in training”) – and publish that as a plan for you to follow. You might get lucky – the author of the plan might be exactly like you, with the same time pressures, same biomechanical weaknesses, same unmissable social events on exactly the same days as in your training, same race date, same weather conditions… I think you get my point – but it is likely that anything you download for free won’t be exactly right for you.

What do you do? Well I think that if you are prepared to spend £100 or more on a pair of trainers and much more on a wardrobe of kit, then spend £100s on massage and physio before spending hundreds or sometimes even thousands on race entries, flights and accommodation for your chosen race, you should spend a few quid and some of you precious time working out a training plan that is right for you.

There are some amazing books out there – my favourites include Pfitzinger and Douglas’ Advanced Marathoning and Marathon Running by Richard Nerurkar – and if you read one or more of them you will know how to build a proper training programme that is right for you.

Or you could invest £60 and get half a year’s access to the tailored training plans available through the RunLounge*

The truth is that the best training programme in the world is the one that works for you. If you can manage a speed session, a threshold session, a long run and a couple of other runs each week and increase the duration and intensity of those runs as you build up to you race, you’ll be on track to do well. But beyond that, you must realise that the details of how, what and when you do your training will be unique to you. That isn’t available for free from the internet!

And then…?

And then when you have worked out exactly what you need to get you to the finish line of your key races in the time you want, you can post it on the internet and let people download it for free: you never know, they might be exactly like you!

 

 

 

 

* Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in the RunLounge as I edit and produce much of the content on there. Just so you know.

The value of a target

Like many people, I suppose, I started running to lose weight and keep fit. Somewhere in my cortex was the nagging feeling that I really shouldn’t live such a sedentary life: out of bed, sit down for breakfast, walk to the car or the tube and sit down on my commute to the office… where I sit down for the day and then sit down on my commute home before sitting down for dinner and then on the sofa for a couple of hours before going back to bed. I just instinctively knew that was all wrong.

The difference with training

Have a target

But training for something is different to running to keep fit or running because you feel that you ought to. Training, for me, is about constantly pushing the boundaries of what you are, and what you believe you are, capable of. You don’t need to run six, seven, eight or even nine or ten times a week to keep a promise to your ancestors. You probably should, but you don’t need to.

Once you are into running every day and then twice a day a few days a week, with only the occasional rest day and then adding cross-training or strength and conditioning work on top of that, then you must be training for something: something challenging and motivating and slightly beyond what you have done before. A target.

And this is why I believe that targets are so important

Once you have set yourself a target, then you know what you have to achieve and by when. From that point, it is a matter of working out what you need to do between then and now to achieve your target. There are suggestions for how you should plan the time you have between when you set your target and the date of the target:

  1. don’t increase the amount and intensity of the training you are doing too fast – you’ll just get tired and/or injured
  2. make sure you incorporate rest into your schedule – that includes whole days off and weeks when you drop the mileage and intensity
  3. plan for sore muscles and fatigue by making sure you get a massage from time to time and making sure you can sleep enough
  4. have some flexibility in your schedule to take into account illness or commitments that you weren’t expecting
  5. try to make sure that you have the means to eat well as you ramp up the training

I also think that it is important that the target should be a logical step on from something you have done before. If you’ve run a 10km then target a half-marathon. If you’ve run a half-marathon then target a marathon. If you’ve run any distance, set a target to run it faster. The reason I say this, is that I think it’s important for the target to be challenging, but not feel impossible. I once worked for a chap who used to talk about the portion of our sales target that was “unidentified reach” – which basically meant the sales that we had no idea where we there were going to come from. If the portion of the sales target that was unidentified reach go too big, the stress levels would really rise. So make your target something that you are at least partly confident you can achieve.

Tactics

So what do I do when I have set myself a target. Well it is a combination of the following:

  • get advice from people who have already achieved what you are hoping to achieve – think Felix Baumgartner calling upon Colonel Joe Kittinger for his super-sky dive.
  • surround yourself with positive people who believe in you as much, if not more, than you do.
  • research: read books and watch videos, especially when your fortitude starts to waver.
  • have a store of inspiration – videos, books or music – that really gets you pumped up. This is one of my favourites.
  • break it all down. You don’t need to go and run your marathon PB tomorrow – take each day, each week, each month one at a time and bank each one for when the day comes.
  • be consistent. It is important that you do go for that run today or stretch or do that core session or not get plastered on a Friday night. All of these things will add up to deliver you to you target in great shape.
  • be patient. There are no shortcuts. It will be hard at times and there will be set-backs, but just keep steadfastly plodding along and you’ll get there.
  • visualise the moment when it all pays off. I can’t tell you how many times, in my mind, I ran up the Mall towards the finish line in the 2012 London marathon before I did it on the day. It felt good every time I imagined it. It felt indescribably good when I actually did it!

This, of course, is not gospel. It is only my take on it. But I do believe there are some universal truths in here, the main one being that you cannot blag a marathon – not a good one anyway. So set yourself a target, create a plan, put the right things in place and – as my friend Charlie Dark says – DO DA TING!

 

The power of the pen (or the keyboard)

I have discovered something about myself and I suspect I am not alone – I need to write things down to really get my head around them. If I don’t I tend to imagine things are better (or occasionally worse) than they really are and that is not a good platform from which to progress. This weekend I have had a few moments where I realised that I may have been deluding myself and if I want to make changes I have to see the reality and then work from there. Time to start making lists.

Training diary

It might surprise you to know that I have never successfully kept a training diary. I have started many times, but I can never work out whether paper or electronic is better and if electronic wins, whether it should be on my laptop or online. This means that I don’t have an accurate record of the training I have done which I think is pretty poor.

So I have decided to give DailyMile a go. I like the simple user interface and there is a nice iPhone app that I can use to add runs to my total. It is also really easy to see how much running I have done. You can see my profile here if you like!

And that was my first surprise. Last week (week commencing 22 October) I ran 40 miles. Had you asked me, I would have guessed at more like 50 miles (possibly even more!) I knew that I had taken two days off because of work commitments and had a planned rest day, so I missed two days – maybe 20 miles in total. But seeing the stats in all their (in)glory really made me take note. I am not the 70 mile per week runner that I imagine I am.

If you want to know where you are in your training, you must keep a record. Whether that is an excel spreadsheet on your computer or an online service like the one I am using (there are dozens of them!) or a folder with sheets of paper in it, you cannot progress until you know what you are already doing. Please join me and start – today – recording what you are doing.

Food diary

The realisation that I am not running as much as I thought I am, then made me think about food. I love food and I love eating. In fact I would say that I might be rather addicted to it. But I probably eat like a 70 mile per week runner and as we have established, I am not that.

The problem here is the casual availability of food. I remember coming back from a three week trek in the Peruvian Andes with Mrs. F. and remarking on how lean I looked and felt. A combination of low-level exercise for hours on end trekking every day and a relative scarcity of food (you’d be surprised at how few fast-food places and convenience stores there are at 5000m in the Andes!) meant that I felt better than ever.

But back here, there is always a well-stocked kitchen and innumerable opportunities to buy more food just around the corner. So I eat. And I don’t record what I eat. I think that it is highly unlikely that I stick to the recommended guidelines for calorie intake – I’m a 70 mile per week runner after all! – and I have no idea at all what my food intake breaks down in terms of fat – carbs – protein. It’s probably far too much sugar in cakes and biscuits and processed carbs (like pasta and bread).

So I am going to start keeping a food diary. That, I’ve decided, will be a notebook which I will try to carry wherever I go. I will also use a note taking app on my iPhone to record anything I eat when I don’t have my note book. There are two reasons for choosing paper in this case – (1) I have yet to find an app that does what I want and (2) I am rather shy about how much I eat (a legacy from my chunkier days!) so I don’t want to go public just yet. But I’m sure I’ll share what I discover along the way.

I think that knowing what I eat will be very useful when it comes to working out where I can improve. I also suspect that forcing myself to write down what I eat will lead me away from temptation, thus improving my diet at the same time as recording it. We will see I suppose.

Running plan

This is an area where I am not so bad and it is a joint exercise, so I have help. It is essential that all runners sketch out their plans for the running at least six months and ideally more like 18 months in advance. This is a classic case of needing to know where you are going so you can work out how to get there. For many runners, especially those just starting out, it is enough that they just run from time to time and maybe enter races that their friends are running.

But as soon as you start to really challenge yourself, a plan is required. Time slips past inexorably and if you want to break a time barrier in a marathon or half-marathon or do a triathlon or Ironman or tackle an ultramarathon, you need to put the date for that endeavor in the diary and work backwards to today, plotting your training and races all the way: you need to factor in family holidays, work trips, friends stag weekends and you have to make sure you book the races you want to do well in advance before they fill up and you are left wondering what to do now! Having a plan will also allow you to adapt when unexpected things come up – if you know where you are going, you can always plot another route.

As I mentioned, my running plan is a joint effort with my coach, Nick Anderson from RunningWithUs. We sit and discuss what the next challenge is going to be and work out the steps to get to that, including any races I really want to do and other commitments I have. If you are not doing that, I suggest you get started now and one place to get some resources that could help you plan is the RunLounge where you can sign up for training programmes tailored to your race date and distance.

The future is bright… or at least mapped

So there you have it. I think that what can be measured can be managed, whether that is your progress towards a running goal or your diet. I am going to focus on measuring three things and I will report back on how I get on.

But please let me know – what do you measure? How do you measure it? And what benefits have you seen as you have measured your progress… I’d really like to know!

What I learned this weekend…

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

Me in my second race of the weekend. Photo © Eamon Byrne

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 what?

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!

 

 

 

 

 

* in case you are interested, I loved the cross-country and was delighted to represent my club and come in the top 80 in the Met League fixture and I ran well on Sunday to cover 10 miles in 57:45 and regain the club championship.

Competing or completing: does it matter?

I just read an article in a running magazine and one line in it made me feel momentarily sad and frustrated. Then I checked myself. Then I thought I’d write about it anyway.

The article was a race report. It was for a half marathon and the writer finished in just under 2hrs 15min. Now I want to state for the record that I really think that it is great that he gave it a go (many, many people will never attempt to complete a half marathon or indeed any sort of sporting challenge at all). And I’m not suggesting for a minute that he is not a worthy recipient of a finishers medal and a pint in the pub afterwards, but the line that got me was “At mile 11, I hit the wall”.

I just don’t think that a young, able-bodied man running at slower than 10 minutes per mile, should ‘hit the wall’ at 11 miles. What I mean by that, is that I think that any young, able-bodied man should be able to train in such a way that 11 miles at almost 11 mins/mile, should feel very manageable. The person who finishes a half marathon in two and a quarter hours is moving at around 5.5 miles per hour. To put that in context, walking pace is usually considered to be 3.5 miles per hour while elite marathoners run at around 13 mph in a marathon.

So before anyone thinks that I am having a go at the person who wrote the race review, I am not. I am criticising a society where people are so unfit and so sedentary that running at 5.5 miles per hour results in encounters with the ‘wall’ and a collapse after the finish line. And we think this is an acceptable performance to warrant column inches in a specialist running magazine. I know that not everyone – me included – can run a sub-60 minute half marathon, but surely there is a lower limit that every human being, with a bit of training and the odd lifestyle choice, should be able to attain?

As I hope you can tell, I am wrestling with this issue.

On the one hand I desperately want people to get involved in running and I really do empathise: I finished my first half marathon in 1 hour 57 minutes.

But on the other hand, I know that the reason I finished my first half in almost two hours is that I had wrecked my body with cigarettes, alcohol, bad food and absolutely no exercise at all. For years, That is something that I am really ashamed of and I do not think for a minute that people should follow my example: I perhaps lack a certain balance in my approach to running.

But I am left with the feeling that as a society, we need to raise our expectations. I think that exercise needs to become the norm. That people need to believe that they should be able to run fast and for a good amount of time as a matter of course and whilst I am not suggesting I know where the limit should be, I would love to try to find out what should be acceptable for a fit, able-bodied person to be able to achieve. Anyone have any ideas?

 

Runners At The Sharp-end #5: Mat Chataway

Mat Chataway at the National Lottery Olympic Park Run. 31 March 2012.

As fellow members of the Mornington Chasers Running Club, Mat and I managed to do a pretty good job of missing one another, but it was inevitable that we would meet. When we did I was hugely impressed with the dedication that Mat puts into his running and really empathised with his thoughts on wanting to be the best runner he can be, achieve the best marathon time possible and enjoy running for many, many years to come. These are three things that I sincerely hope I will achieve myself.

Having only met Mat recently it is evident that he has started preparing really well for the upcoming Cologne marathon in mid-October. A recent track session, where I spent lap after lap watching him pull away from me, showed me that he is in great shape and I have no doubt that as far as the Mornington Chasers is concerned, there will be a new fastest marathon time in the very near future. So I thought I would ask Mat about his running and feature him as a Runner At The Sharp-end. Here is what he had to say…

To begin with could you give us some background about yourself and your running? What distances do you run? What are your personal bests (and what were your first times for those distances)?

I’ve been running on and off since leaving school in 2000, sometimes jogging a couple of times a week, sometimes not at all for a few months, and doing the occasional half-marathon.  I experimented (badly) with a marathon in 2006, again (a little more successfully) in 2009 and then really started to get into it at the start of last year when my brother suggested we do the Prague Marathon.  Now I run anything from 5K to marathons, but it’s probably true to say that I prefer the longer stuff.  My half-marathon time’s come down from 1.45ish to 1.13 (and 58 seconds, but we’ll call it 1.13) and I’ve done a 2.44 marathon having started out with one that was around 4.25ish.

How long have you been running and why did you start in the first place?

I guess my running life has come in two stages: I started in 2000 as a way of keeping fit when the organised sport of my schooldays was coming to an end, but started running in a focussed and structured way in 2011 to try to achieve what I felt would be a decent marathon time.

Are you coached? And if so, by whom?

I just joined Mornington Chasers Running Club and there’s a really good weekly training session with them.

(Aside from your coach, if you have one) who or what has been the biggest influence on your running and why?

My Dad was a keen jogger when I was growing up so without realizing it at the time, living in a house where running was an everyday thing probably had quite an effect.  And then I run quite a lot with my brother now, which is some of the most enjoyable running I do.

What is the best piece of running advice you have ever been given? Who gave you that advice?

Not that he ever said as much in words, but the attitude to running that I saw my Dad take (to run for the love of it) has got to be the best thing you could ever keep in mind.  I’m pretty sure that if you strive to achieve that, in whatever form it’s going to take for you, then you can’t go far wrong.

What is your favourite bit of kit and why?

So much to choose from!  Ultimately, it’s whatever shoes I’m wearing/particularly enjoying at the time (current favourites are Brooks Green Silence) because that’s the absolute basic, fundamental necessity.  If I were to be deprived of bits of running gear one at a time, it’s the trainers I’d be most desperate to keep hold of (though I’d be pretty sad to see my Garmin go).

What has been, or where is, your favourite race?

For many years the only race I did was an annual trip to the Great North Run and that has a very special place in my affections.  But my single favourite race experience came at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2011 because I’d gone out there hoping to break 3 hours and couldn’t believe it when I ran 2.48.  It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny autumn day and finishing in the old Olympic Stadium with my parents watching, and my brother also running a PB on the same day, was pretty great.

What do you think has had the biggest effect on you improving your times?

Taking the time to train properly.  By which I mean doing enough reading to understand the purpose of different training sessions, properly planning a programme, then having the commitment to see it through.  It is time-consuming, and I’m lucky that the people close to me tolerate it/me, but it’s amazing how resourceful you can be with your time-management when you really want to be.

With the benefit of hindsight, if you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be and why?

Start running properly ASAP.  You’re going to find out that you love it!

Do you stretch enough?

Unfortunately not.  But I’m trying to get better!  I’m coming to appreciate that so much of your quality “training” is actually done beyond the logging of miles.  So I’m working on proper stretching and core stability strengthening routines twice a week, and then I’m also getting better at sneaking in stretches on the go.  I’ll often start a quick stretch when I’m sitting on the train or standing waiting for something.

What do you think about the general state of running in the UK and, assuming you don’t think it is perfect, what could be done to improve it?

I think it’s great.  You just have to look at how many people are out jogging, doing Park Run events, entering the London Marathon, the Great North Run, any of the hundreds of other races occurring up and down the country every year – it’s fantastic.  If you keep in mind that running is fundamentally about health and enjoyment it’s amazing how many thousands of people in the UK are deriving those benefits.  I think an improvement I’d like to see is a few more really competitive UK athletes, but I can’t pretend to have any great ideas about how to make that happen.  To see everyone so enthused by the Olympics was great, and now there’s Diamond League quite prominently advertised as being available through the BBC, and I believe many running clubs have seen upswings in membership – but it’s going to be important to sustain and nurture that interest correctly.

What is your overall ambition for your own running? What do you think you need to do to achieve that?

This is what I’m grappling with at the moment – I’m not really sure.  In the short-term I’m running the Cologne Marathon on October 14th and want to break 2.40.  I think I’m in shape to do that but I need to stay free from injuries, relax and believe in my training, and run a sensibly paced race.  But beyond that, I’m trying to clarify in my own mind.  I’d always said it was “to run the quickest marathon I can” but when you really evaluate what might be required to achieve that you start to wonder whether so much dedication for the sake of, for example, a 2.38 rather than a 2.39 PB is really worth it.  Perhaps it’s better to say my overall ambition is to still be running and loving it when I’m old, and to achieve that I need to make sure that every short- and medium-term goal I set myself is one I’m going to enjoy pursuing – one that if I fail to achieve it, I won’t mind because the pursuit in and of itself was wholly rewarding.

Please complete the following: I run because…

I love it!  At the moment, for so many different reasons: I love feeling physically and mentally healthy; I love testing, exploring and advancing my limits and trying to become the very best that I can be at something; I love the beautiful places and things that I get to see (everything looks more wonderful on an endorphin high!); I love the people I get to meet and the time I get to spend with the people I already know; I love what I learn about myself.  Running has really enriched the way I experience life.

You choose…

 

 

 

 

You choose whether to look forward to a session or to dread it.

You choose whether to procrastinate or just get on and do it.

You choose to believe you can do this (or not).

You choose to be the best you can be today and every day.

You choose if you are going to hang out with positive people or not.

You choose to listen to the lazy inner you.

You choose to be different from the masses.

You choose to ignore the pain and embrace the power.

You choose to be a runner.

So if you choose to run, do it to the best of your ability. It’s your choice after all.