There are a number of different “kinds” of runners. The “I do it because I have to” runner who hops on a treadmill or gets out for a quick 2-3mile run to get their cardio in. The “recreational” runner who enjoys getting out for a decent run to start or finish their day. The “fair-weather” runner, who is content on running when the weather is good, but has no problem choosing another activity when the weather turns fowl. The “goal-oriented” runner who likes to set some goals, train hard, accomplish the goal and then set a new one. I’m sure there are a lot of other runners that could be mentioned, like “sprinter”, “distance runner”, etc. What kind of runner are you?
I’m a “goal-oriented” runner, I use distances to accomplish my goals. When I first started out running, I just ran. I would sign up for a 5K or 10K race, train for it and really enjoy the experience of that race. I didn’t really focus on time the first few races as I had little experience or knowledge of running. I was new and happy with the outcomes of my races. I still am, but often for different reasons.
As the distances grew further and the training required more of my time and money, I realized that running had become so much more than just lacing up. I went from following a simple training plan to hiring a running coach. My focus on nutrition is more about fuelling my body and less about cutting calories or eliminating fats. Learning about food and the science of what and when to eat has become necessary for me.
Now when I register for a race I sign up with three time goals in mind. My “I will cry crossing the finish line” time, my “within reach, if everything goes well” time and my “if I can finish strong and upright” time. If you’ve been running for a while, you understand that every race is different, and there are factors that you cannot control. Some races are beyond perfect and others can be a challenge from the start line. By having three time goals in mind, it helps me to gage where I am on the course and if necessary I push a little harder when my 2nd or 1st goal is possible.
Learning to train the mind is equally as important as training the body. Our minds are extremely powerful and can impact our performances greatly. Training runs can be very effective in training our minds. Self-talk can be positive or negative, so learning to speak positively to ourselves needs to be a priority for us. Pushing past “hard” on a run shows us that we can get past it.
If we stress about the weather on race day, we are allowing negative thoughts to impact us. Perhaps adjusting your time goals is necessary if you are dealing with extreme heat or winds. Or maybe you are recovering from an illness and have to run just to complete the race and forget about any specific time. It’s difficult to not get disappointed when months of training was required to get to the start line, but we cannot change what happens prior to getting to the start line. All we can do is work hard on our mindset to run our best race that day.
When I forgot my marathon bag for my first marathon I could have handled it in a number of ways. I chose in the end to run my best race for that day, under the circumstances. You can read more about that experience here: Forgotten Marathon Bag
As I continue to set goals and run a variety of out of town races, there are so many factors that come in to play when preparing for those races. Injuries, for one. Even when doing the best we can, with proper technique, footwear, increasing mileage appropriately, and so on, stuff happens. It’s a journey and our bodies continue to adapt under stress. Putting aside time every week to stretch, do yoga and cross-train is now necessary. Nutrition is another. Understanding what foods I need to be adding to or eliminating from my diet is now very important to me as I see how it can hinder or enhance my performance and overall health.
For myself, running is a long term commitment and continuing to adapt and learn is part of the process. Learning how to stay healthy and what I can do to improve are now included in my goals.
Have you seen yourself evolve as a runner? What type of runner are you?