The Best Advice for Long-Distance Runners
You’ve probably heard it all by now when it comes to running tips. Don’t start out too fast. Never try anything new on race day. Listen to your body. Lube, lube, lube. Blah, blah, blah… Been there, heard (and often ignored) most of it, right? So fear not, we’re not about to bombard you with clichés.
We are, however, about to point out some common runner traits that often land us in trouble. Stubbornness and the (conscious or subconscious) belief that we’re invincible? Check. A tendency to get carried away? Check again. And while we’re all different and at different stages of our running journeys, consistent running has a way of bringing out the loon in most of us.
So instead of memorizing an endless list of running tips, why not work on the source of many running-related issues instead? Why not deal with some common, thorny runner traits and see if the details take care of itself?
Ready for some soul searching?
Ease up on the stubbornness.
Yikes, we’re a stubborn bunch. Case in point: What’s one of the first questions that, without fail, pops to mind when you get injured/sick/hurt/pregnant? Yes, that’s right: “Can I still run?”. And, if – horror of horrors – your physician says no, there’s always the predictable follow-up: “So when will I be able to run again?”.
Not that a physician’s answer, backed by a hard-earned medical degree and years of experience, is always taken to heart. Because as soon as we leave the consultation room, our minds start conjuring up all kinds of weird and wonderful plans to shorten the enforced running hiatus. “I’m sure hobbling a parkrun on my crutches every Saturday won’t hurt?” Or, “I’ll just run my goal marathon, injury or no injury, and then take a whole month off running.” Sound familiar?
We’d save ourselves a ton of trouble by simply easing up on the stubbornness to begin with. Feeling a niggle from one too many long runs? Don’t stubbornly continue running until it’s a full-blown injury. Sentenced to six weeks of no running by your physician? Don’t stubbornly ignore the advice and keep on running until you’re stuck with a stress fracture.
Ease up on the stubbornness.
You’re not, in fact, invincible.
And while we’re on the topic of stubbornness, let’s explore some potential explanations for this phenomenon. Could it be that, consciously or sub-consciously, experienced runners tend to view themselves as being invincible? Or at least invincible to some degree? And could it be that, since we’ve repeatedly experienced just how much our bodies are capable of, we always assume that it can handle more?
Yes, the human body is a magnificent creation. And yes, it’s capable of so much more than we’ve ever imagined. But it’s not invincible. It needs rest. And it needs to be treated with respect. Ironically, and in contrast to what many believe, pushing it harder and harder will not yield increasingly positive results. And running a marathon on minimal training may indeed be possible, but you might just do permanent damage in the process.
So, in between training, give your body enough rest and plenty of TLC. Because if you do, it’s sure to amaze you even more.
Stop getting carried away.
Ah, if only we could do things in moderation. Like only owning two pairs of running shoes. (And only because running shoe rotation is a good thing.) Or like not inundating our poor non-running colleagues with TMI when it comes to black toenails and snot rockets.
And while there is many a fate worse than owning too many running shoes (and therefore having little or no money) or dealing with fleeing co-workers, the tendency to get carried away can come back to bite you in more ways than that. Yes, clocking a new PB is a wonderful thing. But training to a point of injury or near-death in order to get there is not. Clocking a new PB at every race you run is, in fact, not required. And yes, earning that coveted Club 100 shirt at parkrun is a fantastic achievement. But refusing to miss a single parkrun event, even in a flu-ridden, feverish state, is not wise.
So by all means, identify and work hard for those running goals. But don’t get so carried away that you ruin your body and the enjoyment that you should be getting from running in the process.
Remember the bigger picture.
And perhaps the most important thing is this: Remembering to always keep the bigger picture in mind. Your long-term health, your family, your friendships and your happiness. Yes, running can be a big part of a healthy, happy, fulfilled life. But, if you let it, it can also detract from it. So ease up on that stubbornness, accept the fact that you’re not invincible and stop getting carried away. Use running as the life-enhancing tool it’s meant to be. Because by doing that, it should serve you well for years to come.