Tuesday, 12 June 2012

It's no jedi mind-trick but you need to believe in yourself

After the race on Sunday, and my big mileage week, I was aching yesterday and so took a day off from running, although in the spirit of Juneathon, after work I walked the three miles from my office to the train station - a journey I usually make on the tube. While I was walking, I was pondering an exchange of tweets I'd had earlier in the day, about starting out as a runner and then improving pace, and how you could keep improving.

I remember when I started running
in August 2007 I was very unfit, and my first non-stop mile took about 12 minutes.kept at it though, purely because I desperately wanted to run a marathon, and then, because I'd been given a charity place for the London Marathon, had raised lots of money and it was too late to back out! Eight months after I started, I ran my first ever race, a half marathon, in 2:14 (10.16min/mile) and a month after that, ran the marathon in 5:00 hours, which means my average pace would have been 11.27min/mile.

After achieving my goal of completing a marathon, I was very pleased with myself, but completely stopped exercising, and by the time I decided to come back to running in January 2010, I'd lost all of my fitness, weighed nearly 13 stone (which on my 5'5'' frame was far from ideal & I was heavier than when I started running the first time!) and had inevitably got very slow again.  

With only four months training, I then ran my second marathon in April 2010, for the RNLI, in an agonising 5:41... so that's 13.02min/mile.  I'd gone backwards in the very worst way! Despite looking quite happy in this photo (taken at about 13 miles) it was an awful race, and afterwards, I started to take my running more seriously.  

I went from that 5:41 performance in April 2010 to a 4:55 marathon in April 2011, to running a 1:49 half marathon (at 8:03 min/mile) in April 2012 and a 3:49 marathon at Brighton later the same month, which was at 8:49 min/mile pace.

While I was walking home last night, I decided to write a blog post about how I've improved my pace over the last two years, as an answer to the tweet I'd been sent, and I was going to create a list of the top 10 things I've done that I believe have helped...they included losing weight, doing some speedwork, increasing my mileage, running hills, lots of races, race day prep; you know - all those things that Runner's World and the forums tell us we should be doing!

As I thought about it though, I realised that although these have each been a significant factor in increasing my pace, and that it's only with the right training you'll get fitter and faster, it's impossible to start doing any of them effectively without one thing that you don't really read about in the magazines.

The biggest factor, I think, in improving my marathon time was discovering my confidence as a runner. It's been about believing in myself and in my training. Now, I know that sounds new-age and probably very wishy washy...and obviously there's no jedi mind trick that makes you into a faster runner overnight, but I do think that self-belief makes a difference. I'm convinced that for a long time my pace wasn't as fast as it could have been because I had a mind-set that said I was a slow runner who would try and go faster but I never pushed myself in training - if I'm honest, I was probably scared of the pain in my legs, in my lungs, scared to keep running without stopping, scared of trying too hard in training incase I still failed to achieve what I wanted in my races...

I'm not entirely sure where my new found confidence came from. I think the amazing running community on Twitter probably had something to do with it, and the relentless optimism & encouragement that flows from them ;)  Seeing what seemingly ordinary people can achieve has been so inspiring - particularly in ultra running - and also the realisation that sometimes everyone fails, but it's not a DNF or a bad performance that defines us, it's how we carry on afterwards - there's a confidence to be found in realising it's ok to crash sometimes!  Writing this blog has probably also helped as it really focuses my mind on my goals, and has been a true record of just how far I've come...

Becoming a more confident and positive runner has made me train harder, and race harder.  I've still got a long way to go to be the best runner I can be - I am convinced that somewhere inside me is a sub 3:30 marathon - but whereas once I didn't believe that I'd ever break 4:30 in the marathon, now I have the confidence to know that if I really put my heart and soul into it, train hard and run races with the most effort I can muster, eventually I'll achieve my goals even if I have some setbacks along the way, rather than training and racing within that safe zone, where you're not risking anything, and nothing hurts that much.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. It's having the confidence to run harder over the long distances that is difficult.