What if you looked at your next big race in a slightly different way? Most people think that running is a completely natural human thing and we can all do it. To some degree that’s true but we can’t all run 100 m in under 10 seconds and we can’t all run a marathon in 2 hrs and 1 minute. Yes genetics accounts for the world record runners but there is a lot that an ordinary human can do to realise their own true running potential.
To run to your potential you need to retrain a body that is accustomed to sitting 14 of 16 waking hours. Tight hips, weak glutes, poor proprioception are all a result of sitting in chairs all day long. Add to that tight shoulders, poorly activated core, poor posture and you begin to understand that not only are we missing the basic skills to run well but we also have a body that simply can’t run well. Yet!
You’d probably end up in hospital if you suddenly tried to run a 10 second hundred meter or a sub 2:02 marathon. So we build progressively. Work on improving your body movement and mobility through a series of strength and conditioning exercises. Improve your running form to become both an efficient and a powerful runner. Practice running, a lot, so as to hone your body into a good running shape. These three things Strength, Form and Practice, as in many other physical pursuits, feed each other in an ongoing spiral of improvement moving a runner from novice to master. The process takes years and many will not ever master running in the way that Usain Bolt or Eliud Kipchoge have. What we can do is to approach our running as a physical practice with the ultimate aim of becoming a running master of our own body.
Pause for a moment and think about the implications of practicing for mastery. For starters it’s unlikely that you will ever feel that you’ve mastered running. There is always something to work on. A big mental shift though comes in how you approach races.
A race becomes a test. It’s a way to see how you’ve progressed in your running. To measure if the new strength, additional speed or form improvement you’ve been working on is having an effect. You are no longer focused on the finish line or on trying to make less mistakes than the other runners. The focus now is on pushing your own abilities. Even a bad race is good feedback. Post race blues is radically reduced because you weren’t focused on the event as a standalone goal it’s simply a step on your path to running mastery. The greatest gift however is to be able to run with a playful spirit and gratitude in your heart because you have an opportunity to measure yourself, against the course and the other runners.
This is the essence of being a Mindful Runner. It is a never ending journey of running from novice to master.