Thank you for giving me purpose, a reason to wake up with the birds and move my body, for giving me structure in my day and discipline at night when I need it, for making me accountable to finish what I start and to start at all, for finishing training runs and feeling better with my body, my mood, my health and thoughts. For helping me meet new people, but also helping the ones I already know. To the day when I stand in front of you and know I’ve listened and done everything right, I thank you.
Celebrate the start line, no matter where you are.
“I don’t even drive that far!” is basically the first response I get from everyone after I tell them that my hobby in between owning two cafes is running 50km & 100km ultra-marathons, but the thing that surprises me the most is how no one asks exactly how I got to that stage or level and instead just assume straight out of the box that one day when I woke up, I started running ultra’s! This is definitely not the case. For me, and most people, running is a love affair, or better still an episode of a drama series, something you constantly fall in and out of love with again and again. But most of the time this disinterest doesn’t just pop up overnight, it’s usually from little things over time that build up overtime. E.g my knees are sore, running on the road bores me, I’m too busy etc…
The funny thing is, most people will eventually feel or think the exact same thoughts during their running career, and over my 20 year running history as you could imagine, yep, I’ve thought of every one of them.
From running my first 5km race which then led to a half marathon, into a full marathon, into an ironman triathlon, to now sitting happy in the ultra marathon distance, I've certainly had to slowly build to get here. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to meet some pretty knowledgeable coaches, runners and many others in the running community and have had some epic conversations regarding the pleasures and pain of running, and by doing this I’ve managed to collect little tips and pointers which have dramatically changed the way I run and train. This has led to the all too common love affair with running over and over again and revisiting the start line at different stages of my life, but now includes the balance of work, being more conscious of injury, and life in general.
Here are some tips which can be used from a beginners level all the way to the semi pro athlete, to get you to the start line and keep you going.
Set a goal.
I find the best motivation I can get is signing up for a race. Sign up for a virtual race on Strava which you can do in your own local setting where you’ve actually been training and feel most comfortable running. Signing up for a race also makes you accountable to actually turning up to the start line, a trick I use to basically trick myself, is to let everyone know about it as well, plaster it all over social media to make yourself accountable, there’s nothing worse than telling everyone about a race you signed up for to later tell those people you never completed it because you couldn’t be bothered training.
Over the years I’ve read so much about running and browsed online at different running blogs and noticed that all the pictures of these runners seemed to have a certain “running style”, you know the ones where runners are on their tippy toes, arms one metre in front of there body and one metre stretched behind, the most absolutely perfect smile! For years I tried to mimic these actions only to later realise through having a sore back, neck and shoulders that I was running incorrect, a close friend of mine who specializes in this work had the conversation with me to which we both agreed, most runners worry too much about what their feet are doing instead of the top half of their body. The best advice I can give for this is to run like no one is watching, don’t worry about style but instead keep both your shoulders dropped and relaxed, and let your arms swing forwards and back naturally. If you can master the top half of your body, it will continue on down towards your legs and feet. Also if you find while you run you are becoming sore in certain parts of your upper body, stop and reset for 30 seconds, think about why you are doing a certain movement, fix it and move on (I do suggest seeking advice from experts on this as their tips can dramatically improve things overnight).
Get your feet checked.
One of the best tips I can give for the beginner runner or someone who just has forgotten about running and wanting to start again, is getting your feet / gait checked. It makes a world of a difference to be running in the correct shoe, a simple trip to your local athletes foot or similar shop can be the difference of some early injuries or niggles because you were trying to buy a shoe online just because it looked good in you favourite colour. Take the time to actually see what kind of arch you have and you can then work out what brand works best.
Ditch the watch.
I had a great opportunity to run with lululemon global run ambassador Charlie Dark and we had the conversation about runners being caught up with there run watches with the whole “how many minutes km am I doing?” “what pace am I sitting on” and instead not actually switching off and enjoying the run for what it is and the environment around you. Of course the watch has its purpose and when I am in the thick of a ultra training block the watch is your best friend in letting you know how far you need to go etc.. but when I’m in between races I take the watch straight off, the watch can sometimes make running seem like a chore or even like your back at work, always checking your wrist. take the time to just run by feel, don’t worry about distance if you feel good go further if you feel like shit turn back save it for another day, forget the pace that comes from fitness over time and making sure you recover well, instead actually listen to your body don’t force it through things It doesn’t want or need to do. Use the time to meditate or even just work out what you want to cook for dinner?
Get a coach.
I think one of the best decisions I have ever made in all my years of running was to get a coach to help me through training blocks for races, I understand that to some people a coach may seem like a bit of an overkill when it comes to training, but some are actually quite cheap and there are a fair few that are readily accessible, and I have found most of my injuries over the year (and there has been A LOT) has come from overtraining and not actually using my rest / recovery days like I should. I never actually wanted to become a professional athlete but I wanted the balance of running my own business, having a few social drinks with my friends over the weekend and running ultras to somehow all work together, the coach was the catalyst that made that work. A coach is just someone who tailors your training to fit the lifestyle you have or want.
Listen to your body.
The most important tip I can give to any runner or anybody in general is to listen to your body, running is not an overnight journey, but instead can take months or even years to get to the level you are aiming to achieve, you have to learn to respect the process and be patient with it. Use recovery days to help your body repair itself so you can run better. Take the time each night to slowly stretch and help the body get back to peak condition for your next run. If you have any niggles REST and don’t try and force your way through them, most of the time this leads to injuries that can take months to heal.
Whether you’re running your regular weekly track, competing against your PB or lacing up to start your very first run - the benefits of running aren’t tied to the finish line. It starts with showing up.