After completing my first 5k in 2012 in 22:39 I was adamant I was able to run a sub 17 minute 5k.
I’m still not 100% sure why I set myself the target of the sub 17…
I can only assume I was influenced by parkrun UK.
Anyone who knows Parkrun knows that they have a “sub 17 male page”. The page lists all males who have dipped under 17 minutes. I think I took that to mean it was a decent standard and went for it.
Fast forward to January 2017 and I had still not achieved my goal. Granted, I was painfully close. I had run a 17:05 5k in the summer of 2016 feeling the final hurdle was a mere formality.
Things didn’t go to plan in the second half of 2016 and here I was, a new year and the doubts about whether I would ever get the monkey off my back.
On Boxing Day 2016 everything changed.
I decided enough was enough. I realised that, if I didn’t change both mentally and physically I would never reach my goal.
To explain a little more.
On Christmas Day 2016 I went out for a long run. In essence I flogged myself. As per normal routine I had driven to my parents house in Chester-le-Street near Durham. I had planned an out and back run. I would set out for 45mins mostly uphill through Sacriston and into Durham. I’d then turnaround and head back home.
Things weren’t feeling good. Within 10mins the heart rate was too high and the pace too slow. I knew something was wrong. But I didn’t want to quit. I refused to listen to my body.
Somehow I completed the run. I was absolutely shattered. I had ran over 12 miles and my heart rate had averaged 160bpm. OK it was maybe only a little higher than normal but I felt it.
I proceeded to load up on the usual Christmas excesses. I was given a massive plate of Christmas dinner which I think I ate in record time. The world was a wonderful place. It was only a couple of hours later that I took a funny turn. I won’t go into details but it put me to bed and I had to cancel a Boxing Day trip to my partners parents house.
I was down in the dumps.
I felt weak and I felt dejected about my running in particular. I felt down on my luck, like the world was against me. How would I ever achieve my goal? How would I ever reach my running potential?
I blamed everything else – my job, my lifestyle. Food and drink getting in the way. Temptation. Work trips. Alcohol. Chocolate. Late nights. Too tired. Not enough time. Can’t fit it in. Not my fault. The list was endless, playing around in my head over and over. It was self loathing of the worst order.
There was one thing not on my excuse list – ME!
And so it was sitting in my house, lonely, feeling sorry for myself that it dawned on me. I would never reach my goal unless I changed. The key moment came stumbling through Netflix. I found a documentary about Tony Robbins. For those not aware of who Tony Robbins is – he is a personal development guru from the USA.
I want to make it very clear – I have read many self development books over the years. I have always been sceptical. I have always found most to be useful for a while but I have always ended up back to my old ways – negativity and regret. But this was different. I sat through the whole documentary – mostly sniggering, laughing, cringing. But a seed was planted somehow.
Fast forward to January 2017 and I was almost religiously listening to Tony Robbins and through him I discovered another self help guru – Jim Rohn. Jim Rohn got me the sub 17.
By all means look up Tony Robbins and Jim Rohn! It can’t do any harm. Almost everything they teach can be applied to your mindset and running.
Without going into more detail now about exactly what I did, I want to give you 4 things I did do and that you can do starting tomorrow that will propel you towards improved running, PBs and ultimately your true potential.
Here is an extract from my daily journal (written around 5th April 2017 – note I ran my 16:44 PB on the 19th May 2017).
“Running / Fitness Affirmation” – I am 100% committed to reducing my 5k running time from 17:05 to <16:00 before 2020 so that I can win a veteran Masters England vest at Cross Country. This would give me a platform to share my story with hundreds of others and help them to set goals and reach their dreams.
Above everything else, this Daily Affirmation started to come up at times of difficulty and challenge. For example, in the middle of a difficult threshold run, when it would have been easy to quit, I noticed the mantra “I am 100% committed” appearing in my mind. I wasn’t looking for it. The words appeared and I was able to latch onto them.
By committing to your goal every day you are cementing it in your mind.
Developing a daily affirmation is simple, follow these steps:
Step 1 – state the result you are committed to and why
Step 2 – state the necessary actions you are committed to taking and why
Step 3 – Recite the affirmation every morning with emotion
Step 4 – Constantly update and evolve your affirmations
It goes without saying that merely chanting a Daily Affirmation will not magically give you the result you desire. Not where running is concerned. So after you have decided on your goal and your affirmation it is important to work out what you need to do to achieve it.
With running it is easy to do what you have always done. But to get better you must do things you have never done.
I am a big believer in 80/20 training. If you have never done 80/20 training I would strongly urge you to do so.
80/20 training is derived from the Pareto principle (a universal law) which says that 80% of results comes from 20% of inputs.
In running terms this means 80% of your training should be “easy” and 20% “hard”. My advice is for the 20% to be lactate threshold and VO2 max training and the 80% recovery and easy running. It is simple to divide the percentages based on time. I advocate time over distance. So, for example, if you have 4hrs of running per week – 48 minutes would be threshold and VO2 max intensity and the remainder easy.
I will be writing more on this in future articles as well as more details on the importance of Lactate Threshold training.
One of the reasons elites succeed and “mere mortals” tend to fail is that elites are committed to never giving up. How many times do elites face adversity and come back to greater things, especially injuries? How many times do people face a challenge and simply quit?
I have to say I talk from experience.
I have probably tried every sport imaginable. I have gotten decent at most I have tried. But unfortunately I have never mastered any. I have simply not stuck it out long enough. This stint I am currently in with my running (just over 5 years) is probably the longest I have maintained a discipline ever!
Anybody who has read about the 10,000 hours rule knows that it takes longevity to achieve mastery in any discipline. Therefore you must have the goal, affirmation and plan and you must also commit to it until you achieve what you have set out to achieve. There will be ups and downs but you must keep the trend of improvement over the long term.
This could be anything that is linked to running, or at least should help running, that you have never done before that could make the difference to improve. Anything, no matter how simple or how small.
In my case, I was forced to accept that I could no longer ignore Strength & Conditioning. I was getting too many injuries that were destroying my progress.
So, again, at the start of 2017 I undertook a S&C class. 1hr per week was all it took to make a huge difference. I credit this change (in addition to points 1-3 above) as a key catalyst to achieving my sub 17 5k without having to run more miles. To compound that even further I introduced a simple daily exercise routine as follows –
What I noticed was my confidence and self esteem improved over the weeks since incorporating this very basic routine. Confidence is created by doing things you can and should do. Confidence is eroded by not doing things you can and should do.
So ask yourself – “What can you do today that could help propel you to new heights with your running?”
I would love to hear your answers to that very important question.
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