I’ve read hundreds of articles and blogs on ways to become a faster runner. While most include practical information on performing flexibility exercises, hill repeats, intervals, and strides, I’ve come to realize these tips help no one if you’re doing things to negate the process.
I have to be the first to admit, I never wanted to be a faster runner. I claimed to run such long distances to eat and drink what I wanted. I had zero motivation to put further pain on myself in order to have a faster time. Being average was, and still is, perfectly pleasing for me at times because I’m not in competition with anyone but me.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind at any point either. For 2018, some of my ambassador programs asked for my goals. First, to pick a race and second, for the time. Over the past 12 years of having participated in distance running, I’ve seen my marathon times get a little slower by 30 minutes, as well as my half marathon times getting slower by 15-20 minutes. The half is my favorite distance and I decided this year will be the year that just because I’m getting older, doesn’t mean I have to be getting slower.
I wanted to share some tips on what to avoid when wanting to improve your times, whether it’s 1 mile or 26.
1. Lack of desire
As I mentioned before, I never claimed to be fast. When asked about running, I’d say I could run slow for a really long time. Completing 10 marathons and dozens of half marathons, are an accomplishment, regardless of time, and something to be proud of. However, I always knew where my comfort zone was and I stuck to it. I had no desire to push to be faster and I was ok with that thought process. But all of a sudden, my desire to step out of my comfort zone changed this year. And I thought that’s ok too! No one is trapped into saying and doing one thing for the rest of her life. Getting faster isn’t a must, but choosing to self-develop isn’t a bad thing either.
Paris Marathon 2016: 4:49:59 compared to Boston Marathon 2006: 4:13:15
2. Not setting a goal
Marathon training comes with lots of questions from others. Usually, the first question is why then the next is usually what time do you want to finish. (Although, one of my favorites is if I plan to win). Each marathon is different and unique just like the individual running it. You can plan and prepare for your heart’s content and still the race day can go as expected or not. Regardless of the unknown for a particular race, a goal needs to be set. Whether it’s your first or not, having no expectation can defeat the purpose and deflate your drive. For example, at a yearly review, your boss asks for your objectives and you wrote down, “I come to work to get a paycheck”. Hell, I know some of us do that, but you’re decreasing your chances to advance or promote yourself. It’s a similar thought process with running. If you say you JUST want to finish the race, while it may be true, you let fear start to take control. Bringing me to my next point…
3. Fear of pain or the unknown
As a long-distance runner, I know pain is inevitable. Whether it’s pain in my legs, lungs, gut, or mind, after a certain point in the game you may feel discomfort in one, if not all, of these areas. This is why only a small percentage of the world participates in a marathon. If it was easy, then everyone would do it. I think one of the greatest building blocks in life is doing something that scares you once in a while. Fear holds us back from doing a lot of things and then worrying makes us reflect poorly on ourselves and actions. What ifs, statistically, usually never happen and a mindset of I can take us a much longer way then not trying at all.
4. Negative self talk & comparing yourself to others
Ahh, social media…I am truly passionate about and enjoy Instagram (IG), one may call it a slight addiction to be more specific. My boyfriend can confirm this. However, I use this platform as a way to motivate others to get moving along with finding my own inspiration to be a better athlete through others. Whether it’s an inspiring quote (@xpatrunner, @2xpa_, and @themarathonmaracus are really good at this), a scenic running view (@runjanji, @rundezvousralph, @livehardxlovehard are a couple of my favorites), or seeing hard-working moms hit a Boston Qualifying time in their first marathon attempt or doing it time and time again (check out @daniellehartruns, @clairerunsthere, @jennammchugh, @bettinarunswi to be simply inspired), there are literally thousands and thousands of amazing runners out there to find motivation. But the little square world can suck you in if you aren’t careful. While I positively use IG to better myself in fitness, the ugly side of the coin is you could begin to compare yourself to these athletes and wonder why you aren’t as good, fast, lean, or strong-minded as them. We have to self-love and respect our own abilities first, then we can strive to become better if that’s something we choose to do. But if we’re constantly putting ourselves down for where we are currently not, the cycle of pity and despair can override our thought processes. The lovely thing I admire most about running is that it can be an individual confidence builder, but in order for this to be achieved, the only person we should be competing against is ourselves.
5. Doing it alone
Here is where 2018 has differed from any training cycle I’ve done in the past. I’ve joined a free weekly running group concentrating on interval training. The group is huge, I’m talking 200 people and the levels range from beginner to advanced. The intimidation factor is none (despite a foreign language barrier). The group is encouraging, kind, and helps you to push outside your comfort zone. My goals feel more attainable than when I’m pushing by myself, as my own thoughts and fears overtake me. Running with the group has been a real confidence booster in setting out to become a faster runner.
Photo credit: Sebastien Lauer
My goal for 2018 is to run a half marathon under 1:50 as a high aspiration, under 2 more realistically and to run a 4-hour marathon. What are some of the things you do to get faster? What are your 2018 goals?