I’ve learned through trial and error in this sport of what it takes to become a better distance runner. I hope some of these ways will influence your preparation in some way.
There are more ‘guru’s’ online now I have lost count. I wouldn’t consider myself and expert as I am sure there are many beginners who could teach me as well but I write to influence those of you are really trying hard to become a better distance runner despite setbacks.
This post is for runners, regardless of ability who need an extra dose of motivation to make the next jump in their training. If your stuck, mentally or physically, hang in there.
Have any of you heard the story about the book Three Feet from Gold? It was written by Napoleon Hill and talks about a man, R.U. Harby and his uncle, who had a passion for mining and finding gold.
After a great deal of hard work the uncle found gold ore, covered up the find, went home to raise money to buy the machinery needed to bring up the ore found.
He and R.U. Harby raised the money they needed and returned to the location where the ore was originally found, began digging and soon profited from the digging, so much that they cleared their debits.
Things were looking up but they ran into a problem. The gold dried up (so they thought) and they became frustrated and let it go. They sold their equipment to a junk man that lived near the area where they were digging for a few hundred dollars.
The junk man hired a mining engineer after they left, the engineer found a major gold vein just 3 feet from where they were digging. The junk man went on to make millions of dollars from that one vein.
Moral of the story? You have to stay persistent in the face of adversity to become a better distance runner. You can’t let adversity and setbacks get the best of you and you can’t let up when the results don’t come as fast as you want them to.
I understand this completely and can relate 100% to how you feel but letting up will only make you wonder in your later years if you could have achieved what you wanted had you not let up and let go of your goals.
#1 – Get Fired Up – Your results will come from the level of enthusiasm you are bringing to your daily preparation. I have had some crippling results in past races where I wondered if what I was doing was worth the time and energy.
It was, but I could have quit and never saw the likes of a 2.19 marathon, especially when I was still at 2.43 level. The same holds true for you, never stop even under the hardest circumstances, you could very well be 3 feet from gold without knowing. The only way to know is to keep going!
#2 – Trust Your Intuition – There will always be negative forces around us. We sure as hell don’t have to listen to them. If you have been told your too fat, not quick enough, not ‘talented’ enough then you had best follow your gut and keep punching the gas pedal. You have no time to let up.
I am currently in Afghanistan and am under a lot of pressure. Do you know what gets me though the day? The thing that matter most, my family and my health. Our environment doesn’t own us and cannot imprison us to let up on our goals. Fear should never cripple us.
You have the control so don’t let a day pass where you are not focusing on what your heart is telling you.
#3 – Eat Better – Want a sure fire way to become a better distance runner? Take control of the way you eat. A 150 lb runner will burn around 100-110 calories per mile. Do you now how much iron, minerals and electrolytes that are lost in that amount of energy expenditure?
If you go out for a 10 mile run you are burning anywhere from 1000-1100 calories and also burning additional calories for 2-3 hours after the workout from the increase in metabolism from the effects of the workout.
Eat foods that are high in iron. Mauro Di Pasquale did an outstanding article about the importance of iron for bodybuilding.com, one of the best I have read to date.
This is a very important way to become a better distance runner because runners do not always realize how many ways you can lose iron and the only way to really find out where your iron stores are currently at is via a blood test.
I was found to be anemic. Runners do not pay enough attention to this. I know I certainly didn’t and had no idea that this one aspect of my diet was really screwing up my races and many of my workouts.
I highly advise you to read up as much as you can on anemia and consider getting a blood test if you are running into issues in your training that you cannot explain. Want to become a better distance runner? Pay close attention to your physiology with precision.
It goes back to that question, what are you doing the other 24 hours of the day to better yourself. Are you staying healthy? Are you researching ways to be better at the sport. Workouts alone will not get you results. Are you sleeping enough? Ask these questions of yourself and make changes.
#4 – Challenge Yourself – Don’t take the easy route. You don’t feel like going out for a run? Well, being injured and not wanting to do something are two different things and unfortunately it is far too easy to take the easy way out and just sit out for the day.
A day off is not a bad thing, if you feel so overly fatigue that a day of rest is warranted but be cognizant on where your motivation lies on those days you don’t want to run, many times you simply need to change your state.
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If you have a goal in mind, don’t think it is going to simply fall in your lap. Running great times, dropping weight, improving personal bests takes enormous personal time and sacrifice and you have to want it.
#5 – Start Thinking Like The Champion You Are – Far too often we look up to others for inspiration and trust me, this is powerful and does have its place but don’t rely on other individuals accomplishments for motivation wholeheartedly.
You have no time to dwell too long on that alone and the hero’s we have will not do the work for us.
We don’t have a guarantee for tomorrow so you had best start thinking on a higher realm if you want to meet your end mission goal. Ever hear that saying, Champions are not born, their made?
Champions are everywhere, you just have to train them correctly – Arthur Lydiard
The hardest part for runners, especially those just starting out or who are overweight is just getting into a strong routine. You overcome the obstacle and you build continual momentum which only adds fuel to the fire that you already have burning inside you to become a better distance runner.
#6 – Find A Great Coach – Listen, we may think we know it all but we don’t. A great coach can lead you onto the correct path of getting to your goals far faster. I have mentioned in previous posts my relationship with Lisa Rainsberger.
I had been running for over 17 years prior to meeting her and never in those 17 years had I ever considered getting a blood test. It was the farthest thing away from my thinking as I could get. A blood test? What do I need a blood test for?
A great coach or someone with far more experience and know how in this sport can help you in ways you never considered. Take the time to consider and weigh your options on finding a coach.
This may be the big break you need to become a better distance runner and take your running to a far greater level.
#7 – Believe In The Impossible – We have choices in anything we do in life. Running has been what has fueled me to attempt for great things and take calculated risks. You have to live your life as if tomorrow isn’t coming so what on earth do we waste our time limiting ourselves in training and when we toe the line?
It isn’t worth your time. Have you ever seen the James ‘Buster’ Douglas fight when he fought the heavily favored Mike Tyson? Douglas was a 42-1 underdog and no one believed he could win that fight but he did.
He say Tyson as a man, not an impossible obstacle that he was not able to take down.
I am not writing this to make you think it didn’t take an enormous work output for Douglas to win, both men worked hard but what was the difference between James and the countless other fighters who looked into Tyson’s eyes and saw fear?
Was it luck? I hardly think it was luck. Douglas believed in the impossible was possible. He broke boundaries that no one had achieved. You have to have that mindset, that ‘eye of the tiger’ attitude you bring to your daily preparation or you might as well settle for mediocrity.
#8 - Focus On Running Longer – It doesn’t necessarily always take speed work and hills to run great races, sometimes you will surprise yourself running with a strong build up of mileage and long, sustained, concentrated long runs.
I ran one of my best ten mile times at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on nearly all mileage. It was an incredibly talented field and I ran a 51.29. You have to implement all areas of training i.e. speed, hills, intervals etc to run well but sometimes enormous gains and performances can be produced on strong, consistent mileage.
#9 - Be Persistent – I don’t care how many disappointments you have had, how badly you want to quit, you can’t let up. Take a week off, a month even, if that is what is needed. I needed 3 months off completely after 2011.
I worked my ass off the entire year with literally no break trying to chase the 2012 Olympic Trials marathon standard while working within the 101st Airborne Division, one of the busiest Army units in our entire armed forces.
I remember getting up at 2am during one of our field training exercises to do an 18 mile run. I look back on the morning run and it is probably the craziest thing I was willing to do in my career thus far. It was extremely hard knowing I was trying to break a 2.19.00 marathon training under such difficult circumstances.
I worked relentlessly and ended up with a 2.26.42 finish time in November. I can accept that but I believe in persistence. I could never have accepted in letting up and wondering for the rest of my life that I wasn’t persistent with myself and neither can you.
It is the one characteristic that will make you that much closer to gold, that much closer to overcoming what you think is impossible.
The most important lesson I have learned from training and living with some of the world’s best Kenyan and international runners is their persistence. They don’t let up. They are always motivated, always learning from their mistakes and always training for the next race.
Bad race? So what, I can still be the world record holder. THAT is the mindset of why the greatest runners run so well.
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Unfortunately, it is the event (the time run) that the public witnesses and far too often never see or witness the process (the hard work and endless hours on the road) of that world record or superior performance.
Stay persistent, remain vigilant on your goals. They rely on this powerful characteristic to get you to the finish line in goal time.