Sunday, 9 June 2013

Become A Better Runner By Losing

I recently went for a run with my sister-in-law, roughly about 10km from my brother’s front door, round the park and back again. I love the run because there’s a hill about a mile in which feels nice and relaxing as you run down it at the start but really pushes you at the end. I also love running with my sister-in-law because even though we get on most of the time we hardly talk but during the course of the run we had some great conversations. I think nothing beats a nice run in getting people to talk and getting to know each other.

One of the things we discussed were the last four races I have done this year (two marathons and two half marathons - well one was a 16 miler but what’s 2.8miles between friends?).

While I wittered on boring her talking about myself and the details of each race she said something that really struck a chord:

“The most important thing is that you learn something from each race”

In that moment I realised that I had always thought that the most important thing was running a Personal Best time (a PB). If I want to be the best runner I can be, PB’s are almost just icing on the running cake, just acknowledgements of how much I’ve improved. PB’s do not make you a great runner ironically they can even stop you from reaching your best.

In my half marathons and 16 mile race I ran PB’s and I think they actually stopped me from running faster marathons later on in the year. The reason being is that I felt so pleased with myself I just kept on doing the same training, I didn’t examine how I might change my training to improve. Success stopped me from properly learning from my races.

Not getting PB’s in my last two marathons has caused me to examine all of the marathons I have done in more detail. Going through my splits I discovered that despite all my training I have not improved the time for my last 8 miles irrespective of my time for the first 16 miles (fast or slow)! Just simply putting in the long runs on the weekend has not been bringing results. I’ve gone back to all my training manuals, online running message boards and now drawn up a new training schedule. (It basically involves slowly increasing my speed during my long runs so at the end I am running at my fastest).

The idea that failure is good for you is not a new one. Kenneth Ewart Boulding (1910 - 1993) was an economist and philosopher. He is famous, amongst other things, for his quote; “Nothing fails like success because we don’t learn from it. We learn only from failure”.

It’s a truth that even elite athletes regularly discover. Double Olympic gold medalist Mo’ Farrah became great through failure. He used to have a terrible sprint finish (when it comes to Mo’ I realise “terrible” is relative), he was losing important races at the end. As he pushed himself at the end his form would desert him with his arms flailing everywhere. His coaches realised that he lacked muscular strength and incorporated 3.5 hours of weight training into his weekly routine. The rest, as they say, is history.

So next time I don’t get the PB I have been training for I’ll try and remember Kenneth Ewart Boulding. The other lesson I have realised from all this is I should definitely go running with my sister-in-law more often.

Since writing this blog post I've been chatting to the Editor of one of my favourite Radio4 programmes "More Or Less" presented by Tim Harford. Tim Harford's book "Adapt" expands on the idea of success through failure of which I am sure I owe a subconscious debt to in writing this post - Thanks Tim!

(The picture today is of my sister-in-law and me after our run)

No comments:

Post a Comment