Find 10 people who have run a marathon and ask them what they believe is the key to marathon training – there is likely to be 10 different answers. Some will say it’s all about mileage in the legs, or that it comes down to speed training and leg cadence. Others will say it’s about body weight and lean muscle index, or that nutrition and hydration will ultimately be the determining factor, especially whether carbohydrates and/or fat are the primary fuel source pre and during a race. Some may attest it is about movement efficiency, hip and lumbar pelvic stability, and strength, or that above all else all you need is mental toughness. Pacing strategies of course will be discussed, including notions of negative splitting (running second half faster than the first), as will concepts around footwear and what the ultimate shoe is.
The challenge is immense and real. It is often beyond measure and words.
Through my experiences personally and professionally, I have developed a few of my own musings around the best way for athletes and those who do not have strong running backgrounds to optimise their own running and training journey. I must also say, that the world record marathon run by Eliud Kipchoge in September 2018 has also helped to refine my views.
For me, the following three principles are the key:
“Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods. You are a slave to your passions.” – Eliud Kipchoge
In running and life, if you want to do something truly extraordinary one needs to possess an incredible amount of self-discipline.
Self-discipline manifests itself in multiple forms in one’s life and running.
In running, discipline lies in the space around the pillars of performance; the speed (min/mile, min/km or m/s), the amount one runs (how often and how far), how they develop chronic loadings, how a person recovers, their nutrition, their sleep behaviours, and how much they tolerate the stressors of life. However, most importantly there must be discipline in understanding that the human body is not a machine. It will give clear signals and signs when it is being pushed too far.
Anyone can pound the pavement to purge their own inner demons for an acute period of time, the key to repeating the running process time and time again, is to possess self-discipline in following a systematic process and not caving into one’s impulsive emotional urges.
2. Preparation is the Key
“To win is not important. To be successful is not even important. How to plan and prepare is crucial. When you plan very well and prepare very well, then success can come on the way. Then winning can come on your way.” – Eliud Kipchoge
I believe that the key to running, training and performing lies in the following personal performance strategies:
1. Individual performance plan. A structured program that is tailored to one’s individual genotype and phenotype (their environment and genetics).
2. Vertical integration of physiological capacities to enhance health, well-being and performance (training aerobic, anaerobic, threshold, tempo, movement efficiency skills etc. simultaneously within a time period).
3. Elite performance behaviour modeling. One needs to understand what best practice in elite performance looks like, and to mirror these behaviours in their everyday training and performances.
3. Self-belief (belief without proof)
“Pleasure in what you are doing is what puts perfection in your work” – Aristotle
Life, society and people will knock you, doubt you, degrade you, criticise you, put you in a box, categorise how you think, and make judgements around why, what and how you are doing things. The key is to put yourself in an environment that challenges you to stay on course, but most importantly facilitates your incremental growth and development. This will lead to a love of one’s journey and the destination.
If one can learn to ignore the impulse to run fast every time, and instead master their own individual progressive journey, then their personal goals will ultimately be achieved.
Ignoring the competitors and the perception of where one ‘should’ be is integral in one’s running journey. It is easy to compare yourself to others, but the if one can stay focused on their own journey and growth, then their lies the greatest amount of freedom.
Running is not meant to be easy. It is a highly complex scientific and psychological sport. To maximise your performance, you need to surround yourself with the right people and create the best environment.
My business Human Performance, was formed to help facilitate people, athletes and teams to succeed. Through this, I believe that the greatest human pursuit lies in the courage to attempt to challenge one’s own limits. The upper limits of their mental, psychological and physical physiology.
However, it is clear there is a science and structure to challenging a person’s upper limit. If others, can start to practice some of the principles within this article, into their own running, training and life, then there will be plenty of moments of happiness and success on their own particular journey.
Next week… ‘New Beginnings (Part 4): The Race’