Learning to Run

I was not always a fast runner. I’ve gotten more competitive but it didn’t start out that way. For years and years I raced open marathons and triathlons as a very middle of the pack participant. I was thinking about this today after a friend commented on a post I’d written recently about knowing it was definitely taper week when the long Sunday run is reduced to a 45′  session at a comfortable, 7:30 pace with perhaps a few pick ups at race pace. My friend remarked that 7:30 seemed a lot faster to him than a comfortable recovery pace. I thought the same thing before, too! In fact, my first marathon was over six hours. Partly due to a learning curve that most athletes go through in terms of simply being familiar with how to train and race, partly due to how I was fueling my body and mostly, I believe, due to how I learned to approach the entirety from a different mental angle, which I now feel could be more than half the equation of having a successful training build and subsequent race. For me, it began with my husband, then boyfriend, simply suggesting I ‘just run faster’.   It didn’t  happen overnight, but I began to learn that I first needed to believe that I could get faster, and then I needed to learn how to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and how to chose not to react to said discomfort. In other words, rather than picking up the pace, feeling my breath change and my heart rate start to rise and then reacting in a manner such as ‘Oh, this feels too hard (or too fast, or too…whatever)- I’d better stop or slow down’, I learned to…not. This is not to suggest that if you’re doing a workout, step off a curb and roll your ankle so badly you can barely walk that you should just suck it up and not react. The balance is learning your body enough to distinguish actual, true ‘pain’, like in the example of an acute injury as I described above, from ‘discomfort’ as in muscles starting to fatigue, or breathing rate increasing. It has to start, however, with the belief that you can.  Whatever it is that your mind decides, whether good or bad, your body will  follow. So why not spin positively? There’s probably more likelihood of successful outcomes occurring than the frightening ones we might conjure up and worry about anyway. If you currently run a 10 minute mile and have run marathons in the 4:30 ballpark and believe you’ll never break 4:15 let alone 4:00, then guess what?  You’ve already decided your outcome. If, instead, you decide to hire a coach, get a better training regime, eat properly and spend enough time on the mental focus component, you have a great shot of bettering your time each time you compete. So back to that post.  I don’t write much about training splits I do or pacing, however for the purpose of this particular post, I felt it was important to see that an average athlete, with dedication, commitment and a sound training plan can absolutely become a faster, more competitive runner…even if they take a while to get there. Some of us actually need to re-learn how to run after years of not engaging in one of the most natural forms of movement; but even then, it’s never to late. Need some extra inspiration? Check out the NYC Marathon this weekend! I’ll be running; it’s one of my favorite races with such outstanding crowd support. I have race goals and times I’d like to hit, but mostly, I am just so happy to have the ability to do something I love so much, that makes me feel so good and be a part of something bigger….something magical about running along with thousands of others beside you. Try it sometime, if you haven’t already!