I have always been a rebel. It’s in my DNA. Always has been, always will be. This personality trait is evident in every area of my life. I like to think for myself, and refuse to accept societal norms. Seeing as running is a huge part of my life, it should come as no surprise that I shattered a few running standards there. Here are a few examples of how I made running work better for me:
1.) You don’t have to get faster. From your very first running step, to your very last, no doubt you will at some point devise a plan to get faster. Faster equals fitter, fitter equals better, better equals winning, and winning.. well, who doesn’t want to win at life? Getting faster at running is a nice feeling. You can cover more miles in less amount of time, therefore leaving you with more numbers on the clock to enjoy your hobby. Unfortunately, the desire to get faster can become very frustrating. Especially if you don’t seem to be any good at it. That was me! I used to always compare my times to others, and even to my own past times, and I was never, ever satisfied! Sometimes, I would even leave a solid strong race performance completely disappointed in myself because I had missed a goal time by a few minutes…..sound familiar? So here’s a thought: let it go. Completely forget the desire to be faster, stronger, and better, and just run. Be in the moment. Constant improvement and goal setting is not essential to enjoying this sport.
2.) You don’t need to run long on weekends. Likely before you even decided to become a distance runner, you were aware of the weekend long run. It’s just how you have to do the whole training gig, right? Not necessarily. While the long run should be staple if you plan to go far, it doesn’t have to take up your Saturday or Sunday. I run long on Monday mornings. Weird? Nope. It works for me. After years of spending my weekends waking up at the butt crack of dawn to run, I just got burned out on it. I hated waking up early then being too drained all day to hang with my family the only day we were all together. I thought to myself, you know, it might feel really good to just sleep in for once…I tried it. And, lo and behold, I liked it. I traded weekend workouts for spending the morning in my husband’s arms, cuddling my kids by the light of some Tom & Jerry, and making a huge hot breakfast for everyone. The whole “family weekend” thing became the norm, and I never looked back. My weekend completely belongs to my crew. I would much rather wake up at 3am on a Monday to run for 4 hours than do it on a Saturday now, because Saturday is the only day we all have together. Occasionally I will still run long on weekends, but it’s not my favorite thing in the world. So don’t be afraid to rethink this for yourself! Maybe it makes more sense for you to run on a Thursday night, or a Friday afternoon. If the long run is becoming a pain to fit in, be open to change. You may be able to find a better, more unique time to get your long run in.
3.) You don’t need a sponsor.
Real quick, I need to flashback to this… because #AASUGAR is still looking for some athletes if you’re interested.
It all seems cool and all, but look, you don’t have to be an ambassador for a food, a shoe, or a shirt to be worthy of racing hard. Charmin toilet paper, Jiff Peanut butter, or Moon Pies don’t need to be throwing product your way for you to reach your full potential…
(We were bored. Don’t ask.)
You can be a fully functioning athlete without ANY brand power on your shirt. It is possible. Companies are wonderful to support runners. I love it, and have appreciated and accepted it many times. However, race day really comes down to this: your training, your guts, and your will….All YOU. Don’t you think any less of yourself if you’re not repping anyone but your own freakin’ bank account.
4.) You don’t need to apologize for a crappy race on social media Isn’t that so liberating?! We’ve all seen it, and probably done it. You chalk up your race online: “5 days until my big race!! I’m going all out!!!” .. you know..all that celeb status runner stuff, and then–well, and then you fail. Miserably. Happens to the best of us. So, naturally, the only logical thing to do next is to explain to everyone why you sucked so bad, and apologize for letting them down and destroying their hopes and dreams about you. Looks something like this:
Just wasn’t my day today. My leg broke. I ran 60 miles and started to puke from the pain. I wish it would have gone better. I tried. I really did. I tried soooo hard. But, in the end, I just couldn’t keep running on that broken leg. I’m sorry to my mom, my wife, my crew, to all of you good people.
WHY DO WE DO THIS?! WHY?? Why do we always need to explain ourselves to others? Not only are we narcissistic in thinking that everyone and their mom cares about our lives, but we act like the fate of humanity is somehow resting on our running shoulders! This needs to stop. You run your race for you. I run mine for me. We don’t need to apologize for sucking when we suck! If we inspire or motivate someone along the way, great. If not, so what. And if some idiot gives you a hard time about a DNF, well, you can tell them where to put it!!!
5.) You don’t have to find a running partner, or join a running group.
I am not a particularly social person. I never run with a group. If anyone joins me on the trails, it is going to be my dog, and that’s about it. It’s not that I despise humans or anything, it’s just that running is my alone time. It is my chance to breathe, to think, to process, and to listen to music. I really, really enjoy that. I have a group of friends outside of the sport, so I did not really get into it to make acquaintances. This might make me seem callous and anti social, but I’m really— No. I guess it’s true, I am callous and antisocial.
Ha. Really though, I do like to make new friends every now and then, and I am never rude to other runners! However, being a runner doesn’t mean that I need to morph my loner self into a bubbling runner socialite.
So if you’re like me, you can totally be a moody mountain goat nomad and keep to yourself, it’s fine! Running alone is great for developing mental discipline and toughness. I find it especially useful during those long, lonely, remote ultra stretches, where I find I can easily run confidently and comfortably simply because I am used to the feeling.
I will say this though, while I do enjoy being a run loner, literally all of my closest friends are distance runners. We have great conversations, and the adventures we share together are off the chart! I’m happy I got out of my comfort zone and made some friends. So if you do decide to come out of your shell for a quick minute, you likely won’t regret it.
6.) You really don’t need to race multiple times a year. I know it’s the cool thing to do. I mean, Johnny ran 20 100’s this year, and Jane ran like 10 ultras in 5 months, then did 400 miles in a circle, then busted out a 5k the next weekend. Facebook was literally oozing at the pores with inspirational goodness. These people must be some serious super humans… and insanely rich…right? You only did a marathon in January, and then a 50 miler last month, which you are still fatigued and recovering from. You must suck and need to kick it up a notch, right?
A couple things here.
First off, yes, Kilian Jornet exists. No, none of us are him. The average runner is not a superstar genetic freak of nature! The human body simply cannot handle a true peak performance multiple times a year. Look at race times of the runners you see racing every weekend. They probably aren’t that stellar. In other words, many of them are sandbagging each event, or not giving each event their best possible effort. They are approaching the sport with a quantity over quality attitude. That is perfectly fine. It is what they enjoy, and what floats their boat. But see it for what it is, and don’t fall into the illusion of thinking you aren’t doing enough.
Second, think about shelf life. Do you want to still be doing this when you are old and gray? Then slow down a bit! Many runners in the sport for the long haul find that 1-2 longer races during the year, and maybe a couple other shorter distances are all they can handle running at best effort. More than that could lead to burnout eventually. Mentally so, but possibly physical burnout as well. Adrenal fatigue– look it up!
Eventually, you will find it’s about settling into your own body’s rhythm, groove, what you can afford to do, and not comparing yourself to others. For me, the best training and racing routine is one that keeps me happy, healthy, rested, energized, and balanced for the length of my life.
7.) Let running sit low on life’s totem pole. You do not have to train 7 days a week. You do not need to put running over sleep and health. You do not need to be an inspiration to us all!! Really you don’t. ….Why don’t you? Well, probably because you have a life. I’m so sick of this whole media infused mentality of “HTFU”, “GO BIG OR GO HOME!!” and “BEAST MODE!!!!”… *Eye roll* It’s just not realistic, guys. I mean, what if you have 3 kids in sports, a stressful job, financial problems, and a demanding, crabby mother-in-law who lives in your basement? Can you train every single day of the week like a professional athlete? No, you probably can’t. And you shouldn’t. Some days, some weeks, some months even, you really just might not feel like you have the physical, mental, or emotional capacity you need to train hard. And that’s probably for the best. Don’t beat yourself up about it!!! Yes, ultra training definitely requires some sacrifices here and there, but it does not need to get out of control. Run as much as you can without disrupting not only your life, but everyone’s life around you. I find the lower prioritized approach way more sustainable than trying to be a working mom [with horrible biomechanics] throwing down close to the same amount of miles as an Olympic marathoner… wayyyy more sustainable.
8.) You can DNF all you want!!! Because frankly….Who gives a crap?! I remember reading a post a little while ago stating that those who DNF ultras were essentially nothing more than human garbage. Not finishing what you start is basically the worst thing imaginable. Complete failure. I say screw that nonsense! If you’re sick, fractured, twisted, fatigued, or heck…if you just want to go home, eat dinner with your family and call it a day, by all means, just do it. You can! You can stop running! It’s your life, it’s your experience, and who cares what anyone else thinks about it? I seriously doubt that when any of us are on our death beds, we will be wishing, above all else, that we had finished that dang 100 miler. Ultrarunning, as wonderful as it is, puts an intense amount of stress on the body–YOUR body. The skin that YOU have to live in every single day, and for the rest of YOUR entire life. Race wisely.
9.) You don’t have to have a goal race and a schedule. Racing is fun. It helps us stay motivated to run every day, and a schedule helps us accomplish those goals and dreams. But, there is such a thing as just running for fun, my friends. There is no problem with simply running a few miles in the the park every day, or going for a weekend jaunt in the mountains.. JUST BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT. No plans, no itinerary, no hopes– just the art of moving and breathing freely. It feels absolutely amazing. I did this for the majority of 2012. I was burnt out, and sick of trying. I didn’t want to quit running all together though, so I just decided to run what I wanted, when I wanted, and left the rules out of the picture. It was the most liberating year of running I had ever felt. If the thought of signing up for another race drains you, then don’t do it.
See how running feels in the raw, without all of the pressure and details of goals and schedules. Ditch your watch, and just get out to enjoy a nice day. Don’t worry about how far you’re going or how fast. Just be present in the moment. Take in what it feels like to be alive, and let that be enough for you. Just run…. You might like it.:)
All in all, running comes down to this one simple thing: Do your own thing, and enjoy it. Yeah, I could have summed up this entire post with one sentence……Okay, I’m deleting the rest now.
Have a great day, guys, and GO RUN! 😀
Tune in to TRAILRUNNERNATION to hear me discuss this blog post with Sally, Don, and Scott HERE.