If being a better runner means running faster, further and making it feel more comfortable, then at some point you’re going to need to push your limits and move outside your comfort zone.
Whether it’s running that first 30K long run as part of marathon training or hitting 5K pace during a tough speed session, doing something you’ve never done or that you know will feel uncomfortable is both intimidating and a tough thing to do. But it’s also a necessary and important part of training.
For the times when training demands more than what you think you have to give, here are some tips to get you through:
Some runs matter more than others
Training is about running further and faster than what you’re used to. Long runs and workouts are the key runs that prove essential for success. Prioritize them as important but know they’re also not ‘make or break.’ Consistency and remaining healthy are the keys to long-term success.
It’s okay to fail
Not every day can be your day. Some runs and workouts will be better than others and some will be downright regrettable. Allow yourself the ability to fail from time to time; just try not to make it a habit.
Psych yourself up
It’s important to get excited and see yourself completing every run. Know what you plan to do before you begin. Also know the reason for doing it, whether that be building endurance, speed, recovering, etc. Knowing what and why you’re running should help motivate you and help visualize getting it done.
Set reasonable goals and expectations
Don’t expect to have a great 32K run if the longest you’ve ever done before is 24. Don’t try to run your intervals at a pace you’ve never practiced either. Use your current fitness and how you’re feeling on the day to set attainable goals that are within your grasp. But don’t undersell yourself either.
Reassess and adapt on the fly
If you know you’re not ready for a particular distance or pace, back off immediately rather than struggle through it. Decide on a few less K for the long run or reduce the number of intervals in the workout. It’s better to be successful doing a bit less than failing in an attempt to do a bit more.
Break it down
Don’t think about the total distance or obsess over the number of intervals. Break the run into smaller, more manageable chunks or pieces. A 30K long run is nothing more than 15K easy, a tough 10K plus 5K of what you have left. For workouts, focus on the individual interval you’re on and not how many remain.
Find a friend or group
Running hard can suck on your own. It’s much easier to suffer with a friend. Misery loves company, right? Long runs definitely seem shorter when you’ve got others to chat with. Hard workouts seem “easier” when you’ve got a pacing partner or pack to lead or chase. Having others to run with also creates a sense of accountability and you’re more likely to put your best self forward.
Go with your strengths
Being and feeling confident about yourself and your running is an underrated aspect of success. Build your confidence by choosing workouts you enjoy and that you’re good at. Run where you’re comfortable and familiar. Don’t neglect your weaknesses but also don’t stress about them either.