I have sponged a great deal of running tips from running greats, common folk, and everyone in between in my past 15 years or so of participation in the sport. I don't have all the answers (I am not even sure I have any, come to think of it) but I do know ways which will help you be a success at this sport regardless of what your finishing time is. Here are six ways to get the most out of your running.
It is admirable to push through a race when it is not going your way. It is foolhardy to think that on race day, if things start to go south, that you shouldn't change your goals or strategy. This follows the same with workouts. You will be doing non-races more often than races (well, you should, at least) and you are going to have plenty of days where what you wanted to do is not what you are going to be able to do. Weather, exhaustion, and time constraints can all throw a monkey wrench into your well-oiled plans. Roll with it. Do the best you can at the time with what you have. That's a good mantra for life, actually.
2. Stop Worrying About Others
I wrote an article for the Good Man Project called Do It For You. The article talks about how many get motivated by what others say they cannot do. I think this is detrimental to mental health. There is nothing more powerful than indifference. You should feel the same way about others' workouts, personal bests, or finishing places. No matter how hard you work, some people are going to be faster than you. On the flip side, you are that person to someone else. You were given a set of DNA that you simply cannot change. I don't say use this as an excuse not to try but the only person you should try to be better than is yourself yesterday. It sounds like a stupid phrase which should have the backdrop of clouds and a fake attribution to Morgan Freeman, but it is true. You’ll be much happier if you relish in your accomplishments and stop trying to be or beat somebody else.
3. Get Over Bad Runs
Do Nothing Foolish. Cannot tell you how many bad runs were followed the next day by an exquisite one.
I coach athletes and the most annoying thing is telling them to take a rest day and then noticing they ran an "easy three." That isn't rest. The year I ran 52 Marathons in a row was also the year I ran the fewest miles I have run in a year since I have been keeping track. I averaged a 3:21 marathon by knowing I needed to give my body time to recover, or at least as much time as was possible. Without rest, our bodies simply can’t repair, rebuild, and strengthen. If you feel guilty or weak for taking a recovery day, do some pushups. After about 100 you will be cool with your rest day.
5. Learn to Embrace Discomfort
I am not a fan of the whole "Harden the Eff Up" fake toughness displayed by some. "I will NEVER not finish a race," they say. Well, yeah, someday you probably will. It happens. However, the best way to know the difference between pain and exhaustion is to know what discomfort feels like. It is OK to be tired. Or hungry. Or thirsty. I see so many people going for runs and they have a Family Buffet wrapped around their waist. You are going to be gone 90 minutes - you don't need a sandwich.
6. Remember How Lucky You Are
Personal bests are great. Besting your opponents are fun. Getting a six-pack of abs is fantastic (I have heard. I've never had one.) But the main and best thing about running is that you get to do it. If it is cold and rainy, it might be tough but guess what? You get to do it. It is going to be hot out there today but guess what? You get to do it. Boy, that run was absolutely awful. I had absolutely no energy. But guess what? YOU GOT TO DO IT.
You are traversing the world, one foot at a time, releasing tension, strengthening your body, mind and soul. There are thousands who wished they had it so easy.
Don't take it for granted.