Progress in Perspective: How You Think & Talk About Your Running Matters
Over the last few weeks I’ve had the amazing privilege to meet dozens of new runners both in class at Mile High Run Club and one-on-one for private coaching. Despite their differences—which run the full gamut of age, gender, body type, ability, etc.—all of these athletes have one big thing in common: they’re showing up. They’re committing to putting in work, improving themselves and laying the groundwork for a stronger tomorrow. This is how you make progress.
Let’s take a step back. As a coach, I genuinely love working with runners of all levels. Someone training for their first 5k is just as exciting for me to coach as someone training for their tenth half-marathon. Having athletes with a variety of goals, abilities and familiarities with running allows me to share my entire spectrum of knowledge while also continuing to grow as a coach. No two runners are exactly alike, but learning what works for one may give me new insight for helping another. The same goes for coaching group classes at MHRC. I’m thrilled to see seasoned marathoners on the tread. I’m also thrilled to see newbies and non-racers. My advice is consistent: where you’re at now is only a stepping stone to where you’re going. Do your best today to be better tomorrow.
Now for the bad news: by no means is this guaranteed to be a linear or easy progression. As my friend and mentor Coach Corky often says, change happens when we get uncomfortable. And even though I’m incredibly proud of all my runners for stepping up to the challenge time and time again, it’s heartbreaking to know that quite a few aren’t confident in themselves! Here are some things that I hear far too often:
“I’m really slow.”
“I’m not very good.”
“I’m not a real runner.”
“Maybe this is the best I’ll ever be.”
Don’t say you’re not a “real” runner, because I’ve yet to meet a “fake” runner. Don’t feel like you have to qualify or label your running in any way just because you’re not as fast as the next person. Unless you’re Eliud Kipchoge, there’s always going to be someone faster or better. That does NOT negate your experience or progress! Don’t knock yourself down because you’re not where you want to be—yet. Trust that training, like so many things in life, is a process.
And if this really is the “best you’ll ever be”? That still doesn’t mean you can’t improve in other ways. Many ultra marathoners are runners who have perhaps maxed out their speed potential but can still run 30, 50, 100 miles at a time. Maybe more. Try a new distance. Try a different terrain (trail running is a lot of fun). There are a million ways to mix up this sport.
It often surprises people when I tell them that when I started running almost 10 years ago, I couldn’t even run for 10 minutes straight. My calves would cramp. My heart rate skyrocketed. Everything hurt. Today 10 miles barely counts as a “long” run. I won’t say that things are always easy now—nor will they ever be, because bad days are an inevitable part of the process—but the tough stuff is a challenge that I’m eager to conquer. Even when I feel like trash or can’t hit paces, I know that the effort I’m putting in will translate in some way later down the line. Running requires physical strength, mental toughness, the willingness to work and a whole lot of patience.
Next time you find yourself discrediting your own running, try a positive twist instead:
“I’m not where I want to be right now, but I’m training smart and putting in the work to get there.”
“I’m better than I was yesterday.”
“This is really tough, but my body will adapt to the stress and make it easier next time.”
“I AM a runner.”
Progress comes in all different forms. Remember to celebrate the small victories, like your longest run ever or a really strong workout. Maybe you’ve started strength training and are feeling a difference. Running isn’t always about the speed or racing. It’s about the journey.