One month into 2017 and I have managed one 10k run in January. Since then problems with my knees have prevented me doing anything but 3km jogs and strength training much of which was of my own design and based on my own diagnosis.
The 17th of June doesn’t seem so far away and I am now staring at the prospect of potentially having to find an Ultra marathon later in the year. In the meantime I nurse two sets of slightly bruised quads. Not from any punishing run as I might like, but from the ravages of a physio. “Have you ever had a sports massage?” was her question after listening patiently to my jabbering repetition of how unfortunate I am to have one pain after another. "I don’t think so”, I hesitated.
I bloody well have now. And I know it, as I crab my way between sofa and kitchen. When I showed my wife my bright red, manhandled legs her sympathetic response was; “hahaha, you don’t even have any muscles”, showing scant regard for my discomfort, just as the physio had answered my wincing and whining by informing me she wasn’t even using all her force. But enough self-pity!
As I start a period of rehab to ensure my legs are best placed to run a long distance I am deeply frustrated, however, I am all about positivity these days so I am glad I have been able to use some of this extra time to pick the brains of some more experienced runners, who have transformed themselves from the ordinary to the extraordinary and share something in common with me… neither of them is 20 years old! Here are some lessons gleaned, on Training, Motivation & Mindset and Expectations from Ali Young and Alison North.
There was too much to put into a blog post but I have tried to distill it into some tips and pertinent comments from both.
Alison North started running in her 60s. When she decided to take part in the 100km Race to the Stones she had never run more than 5 miles (originally having planned to walk it). You can follow Alison on Twitter.
As a side note I would urge anyone to listen to both of these remarkable (and yet normal) people being interviewed by Sarah Williams on the Tough Girl Podcast (links at the end). A huge thanks to Ali, Alison and indeed Sarah for the intro, now here are some tips:
- Running is not just about running - strength training is crucial so have a training programme.
- Have a proper tailored training programme based on who you are, for example; age, gender, fitness, strength.
- Have a training programme based what you are going to do, for example; marathon, 70km ultra, 100km ultra
- Get your nutrition right during the run. Practice eating, see what suits you and the most effective way to sustain yourself in a long run. Do not leave it too late.
- Find some shoes and socks that are good for your feet during your training and don’t do anything differently on race day.
- If possible train on the terrain you will race on.
"Ultra Distance isn't that great for my body, but it is my choice to run them as I love the challenge. However, I do wish to run for many years (currently 43 yrs) so I also make the choice to prepare in the best way. I don't think running tonnes of miles a week is going to make me into a strong force on race day - it will just put stress on my joints and I may be worn out. I like to have strong muscles to protect my joints and generally be a strong force. I also, like to run all distances including track 800 & 1500 metres so I don't want to become someone who just runs miles all week without pace.
One of my weaknesses is my tight calfs and hips so I'm trying to incorporate a weekly 'hot stretch' class at a local studio. I run a bootcamp in the park 3 x per week and depending on what is going on with my other training, on some sessions I will join in - especially when doing core and glute strength work. Also I'm on my feet a lot, generally, so this is good training in itself.
My average week is currently made up of - Long slow run; speed work - hills or flat; tempo run; CrossFit (strength and power) classes; Stretch; Joining in with some of my own classes".
"I was recommended someone who gave me a programme and it really just started out with baby steps; see how far you can run, see how it goes, see if you like it and then he put together about 16 weeks of work. It comprised mostly of running at that stage, so go out and do a slow run then go out and do some hills for half an hour or intervals - 1 minute intervals then 5 minute intervals - so there is a huge combination. I wasn’t actually very good at sticking to it but I got sucked into the joy of running and I didn’t really understand that to get strength over a period of time you need to build other muscles".
MOTIVATION & MINDSET:
Motivation is a hugely personal thing (so can be wildly different for individuals) and I think a lot of this can also come from the right training and seeing or feeling the results from strength and conditioning, for example. But here are some tips to try and find what works best for you:
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself - you could for example choose a race without strict cut off times.
- Keep your eye on your final goal, what you want to achieve, how you will define success.
- Be patient and concentrate on small aspects of the training; break it down to its components and trust in the programme and the importance of each aspect.
- Find the best time of you to train, when you need least motivation and schedule it then.
- When you turn up at the start line believe in your training programme to have prepared you.
“I have to get motivated to do the strength and conditioning training and the only way is to remember what I am trying to do finally, this 53 mils run in the time allotted and so if I don’t do the strength and conditioning I am not going to achieve that. It doesn't always work. But I have never had any difficulty getting up in the morning and going out for a run. I have never missed a running session and I have no idea what makes me do it.
Part of it is getting up and putting the training kit on first thing in the morning. If I leave it until the evening its a lot more difficult, I come in and have to change and go back out.That isn’t as easy. On the race the motivation is all in the head. I don't like failing - its nothing to with winning - its me not getting the job done properly”.
"Be in the best shape 'you' can be at the start line. Your mind will have to do most of the work when the going gets tough. Mindset is vital. If it suits the individual to know they have loads of miles in the bank -fine - but are you stronger for it, or are you a bit worn out from it all. Don't get me wrong you need to run! I run most days, but it doesn't have to be 20+ miles each time".
- Don't expect too much (this goes hand in hand with not putting too much pressure on yourself).
- During the race there will be repeated ups and downs.
- Your body is likely to hurt but a good training regime which includes core strength work is likely to leave you feeling better than you might imagine.
"There will be waves of pain! Great up's where your thinking 'yeah, this ain't too bad, I got this!!' and then 'I hate this, who's idea was this!'. Let them come and let them go - know it will hurt at stages, but also know the waves will fade”.
"I don't even change my shoes and socks in a 100km run, I think I just happened to light upon the perfect combination of shoes and socks (North Face Trail Running Shoes and Heli Twin Skin socks) without too much effort and maybe I am just lucky that my feet are sturdy"
"I had DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after my first 100km run but really recovered very quickly”.
Tough Girl Podcast episodes: