With us just being a few days into the new year, it’s only natural to reflect on the miles you’ve logged, the runs you’ve notched, and the races you’ve conquered in the year that was. At least, this is what I find myself doing. The end of the year has a tendency to catalyze reflection.
It also tends to catalyze the idea of committing to resolutions for the following year. Resolving to log more miles, run faster, or get more races on the calendar is great. I wouldn’t discourage committing to any of these resolutions.
But, I’ve got some resolutions in mind for the new year that are less about specific, tangible running goals. They’re more about feeling more connected to the act of running, enjoying the act of running more, and the idea of being more engaged in the running community at large.
Whether you’re struggling with the idea of where you want to go with your running in the new year or not, I hope a few of these resolutions/ideas/musings strike a chord with you. Some of these resolutions might help you notch a personal best. But, that’s not necessarily what running is all about.
We live in a glorious age where incredible running tech is at our beck and call. Almost every runner I encounter is plugged in, geeked out, or jacked in when they’re logging the miles. It’s a brave new world.
But, all this connection can result in a disconnect. If you’re too focused on what your heart rate monitor is telling you, what the alerts coming from your Stryd power meter are saying, or thinking about the perfect spot for your next glorious running selfie, you’re not focused on the act of running. Try unplugging a bit this coming year.
Some of the best runners on the planet come out of the Rift Valley in Kenya. Many of them don’t have ANY of the tech we take for granted every day we head out onto the road. Yet, they run at an extraordinarily high level. I’m not claiming the absence of tech is the sole reason why they’re able to perform at such a high level, but it’s at least part of the equation.
If you don’t have some kind of external device telling you what you should be doing (or distracting you), you have no choice but to listen to the messages your body sends you. Regardless of what your device(s) may tell you, the message(s) your body sends you are your true north.
So, try unplugging. Take off the headphones. Leave the watch at home. Switch off your phone.
This luddite approach forces you to pay attention to your breathing. It demands you listen to the messages your body sends you. I’m not claiming you’ll be running farther and faster by doing this, but using this approach (periodically) forces you to focus exclusively on the act of running.
There’s little question that you perform better when your focus is narrowed on a singular act.
All the small things
If your schedule is anything like mine (ahem..NUTS), it’s challenging enough to simply carve out the time to get out on the road (or trail) and get the miles in. But, simply logging the miles only gets you so far. Only focusing on the miles can lead you down the road to aggravations/injuries.
The best runners on the planet do a heck of a lot more than simply get the miles in. The elites do a quality warmup, they do a quality cooldown, they do all of the small things. Arguably, it’s all of these small things that make a HUGE difference in how they perform on race day.
I’m not going to enumerate ALL of the small things you can do. But, if you currently don’t do any kind of quality warmup before you run, try doing it. If you currently don’t use a foam roller, get one (and actually use it). If you don’t regularly get a sports massage, give it a shot.
The elites sweat all the small stuff most of us likely don’t even think about. Maybe your schedule doesn’t allow you to sweat ALL of the small things. But, try to sweat just a few of them in the new year.
You may toe the line at countless races every year. But, do you have any idea what’s involved in producing a race? Pulling off even the smallest race is a non-trivial endeavor.
There are permits to be secured (and paid for), there’s insurance to be obtained, medals and shirts have to be designed (and purchased), and the list goes on. Producing a race is easily as tough as tackling a marathon.
If you’re participating in any local races, it’s likely the race director(s) behind these events aren’t making a ton of money. It’s likely their races are largely a labor of love. So, show them some love in the coming year.
Pull the trigger on a local race (or two). Support local races (and race directors). Even if you can’t participate in a local race, there’s another great way to give back.
Volunteer! Every race requires a veritable village of volunteers. If you don’t have the time, money, or inclination to sign up for a local race, volunteer your time at a race.
In addition to providing an opportunity to give back, volunteering will likely give you some keen insights into just how much is required to make a race happen. These insights will inevitably make you appreciate the race experience more the next time you hit the starting line.
Get someone to drink the kool aid
There are few things more gratifying to me as a coach than introducing someone to the wild, wacky world of running. I beam with pride every time one of my runners runs farther than they think they can. I never get tired of the elation a new runner has upon notching a personal best.
I’m in the fortunate position to help people discover (and fall in love) with running every day. But, you don’t have to be a coach to do this. There’s no reason why you can’t encourage one of your non-runner friends to drink the kool aid.
Invite a non-runner to join you for a slow, easy run with your club, crew, posse, or whatever you run with. Encourage a non-runner to join you for a few laps at the track. Bait them with post-run snacks, beverages, or whatever else might strike a chord with them.
Running makes you happier and healthier. It slows the aging process. The act even helps stimulate brain cell growth. In short, running is a veritable panacea.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the world would be a better place if we could get everyone doing some kind of running. If you are on board with this sentiment, start spreading the disease! Do what you can to get someone drinking the kool aid.
Want to hear more from Marathon Matt? Find out more about his coaching and running experience at www.marathonmatt.com!