Happy New Year!! With ringing in 2016, and saying goodbye to 2015, we say hello to new resolutions, crowded gyms, busier lines at salad bars, and . . . perhaps most-importantly, a whole new slew of ambitious running-related goals!
Well, whether 2016 will see you run your first marathon or ultra, get a PR at a 50-miler, hit the podium at a 100-miler, or finally qualify for the Badwater 135, here are 10 tips to help make 2016 the best running year of your life!!
1. "Baby" audacity.
Here is my two-part advice on this topic:
Step One: Set an audacious goal. Something that scares you . . . a lot. A guy I know -- and have competed against at Badwater -- who is simply referred to as "Seal" in a recently-released book, puts it this way: "I can't find out about myself in a 5k. I can't find out about myself in a marathon. I need to find the most ridiculous, disgustingly-hard thing I can find, and try and conquer it . . . and when I finish, I have all the answers to the questions I've been asking." (Yes, I'm paraphrasing a bit, but you get the point; this guy has gone through the infamous SEAL "hell week" twice; he probably knows a thing or two about suffering and overcoming it...)
As one of my friends, a super-famous running buddy (who also happens to share my initials), says:
"Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you're not demanding more from yourself - expanding and learning as you go - you're choosing a numb existence. You're denying yourself an extraordinary trip."
Amen, brother. (And thus ends the "kind-of name-dropping" portion of the show) :)
The point, though, is that the bigger the goal, and the more scared of it you are, the better the reward when you finally conquer it.
But being audacious, however, is only the first step of the "goal-setting" equation.
Step Two: take baby steps towards reaching that goal. Having grand plans without having a chance in hell of actually completing them is, well, "sub-optimal," as Rog and Davo are fond of saying (bonus points to anyone who gets that reference). Psychologists have a name for it: delusions of grandeur. That's where Bill Murray and the movie What About Bob comes in . . . take baby steps towards your goals. If your goal is to run a 100-miler in 2016, don't schedule your first 100 in February if you've never run longer than 20 miles. Run a marathon. Then run a 50-miler. Then a 100k. Why skip steps?
(Fair warning: Tip #2 will ask you to follow the advice of Nick Saban, the "Darth Vader" of college football...)
2. Win the day.
For those of us who are not Alabama fans -- which encompasses pretty-much everyone who does not live in the great state of Alabama -- I like to phrase his message a bit differently: Win The Day. Don't focus on the "big picture." Be a "trees"-type of runner, not a "forest" one.
With the runners I coach, I only give them schedules for one week at a time. Believe me, I do not have this policy to give myself more work to do; it is obviously far-easier to write a schedule for a month and say, "here you go; report back in 4 weeks." So why do I make more work for myself? Because (in addition to wanting customization as much as possible), runners should be concerned with today's workout. All that matters is today. String enough "todays" together, and that is when amazing things start to happen...
Put more directly: be better today than you were yesterday. That -- quite literally -- is all you need to do. If you can honestly say to yourself when your head hits the pillow at night that you made yourself a stronger runner than you were the night before, and string enough of those days together for long enough, you will reach unimaginable heights in this sport.
And that leads us to Tip No. 3:
3. The trial of miles. miles of trials.
--John L. Parker, Once a Runner
That quote perfectly encapsulates what it takes to be a successful runner: consistency in training. I have written about this point ad nauseum for years, and it is still as true in 2016 as it has always been . . . there are NO magic pills in this sport. The runners who achieve their goals are the ones who train consistently and intelligently, plain and simple.
4. mr. miyagi and t-swizzle . . . with a dash of coach taylor.
-"Shake it Off" Again, none of us are professional runners. So why do we see others -- so often now, especially in this age of instant reactions and social media -- trying to push their own agendas, values, and beliefs upon us? There is so much running-related "noise" on social media these days that it can be deafening. Wouldn't it be great if we all recognized, as an absolute truth, that (a) all runners are different, (b) we all have different motivations, and (c) there is NO "right" or "wrong" in this sport?? My main point here is simple: don't judge others, and don't let others' judgments of your goals affect you. Your goals and your motivations are yours and yours alone. So own them and be proud of them. If family members, work colleagues, friends, Facebook "friends," or anyone else judges you for setting an audacious goal, for being content with a DNF, or for whatever reason, just recognize that they are projecting their own issues upon you. That does not and should not become your reality. Just do your thing (with "clear eyes", and follow your heart, and you can't lose).
5. there is no "magical" number.
They are just random numbers. Take the marathon for example. The 26.2 distance came to be because of the confluence of two factors: (a) the distance from the city of Marathon to Athens in Greece is roughly 25 miles, and (b) in 1908, the King of England added 1.2 miles to the traditional "marathon" distance (25 miles) so that it would finish in front of his residence. Absurdly-random, right?? The same can be said about 50 miles or 100 miles . . . they are simply round numbers, ultimately based upon 5,280 segments, measured by the average size of a human foot hundreds of years ago.
My point: do not be scared of distances. Sure, each new distance presents its own challenges, and its own strategies for conquering the distance. But after running well over a hundred marathons and ultras (of increasing length), I firmly believe that, with experience, you will agree with me that the numbers that define these races are just that . . . numbers. And once you realize that, and take away the power that some daunting distance may have over you, then you can begin to see it for what it really is: simply a measurement of the distance from point A to point B. There is nothing preclusive about any distance . . . if you want to run x number of miles (no matter how big "x" is, you can, regardless of your "talent" as a runner). In other words, there are no limits to what you can accomplish. As my buddy Ray Zahab (dammit, yet another name-drop) is fond of saying: "90% of this sport is mental, and the other 10% is in your head"!
I hope 2016 will be the best running year of your lives, and I cannot wait to see as many of you as possible throughout the year, starting on Jan. 16th at the Long Haul 100 in Wesley Chapel :)
See you "out there"!!!