A Tale of Three Runners
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…if you understand that reference then you’re probably my age or older (or just enjoy reading). Actually, this weekend it was the best of times for three of my athletes.
Recently in my city of Ottawa we had our annual Ottawa Race Weekend. It is a fantastic weekend for runners where they hold a marathon, half marathon and a 10k and 5k and all events are well attended with over 30,000 people participating. Every year it is run flawlessly for the most part (although they had a bit of a screw up on the ½ marathon course this year) and attracts runners from all over the world. Since runner coaching is a part of my business I wanted to share a story about three of my athletes who all come from different aspects of fitness, but all achieved a level of success this weekend, even though they started in very different places.
RP is a gentleman who has been working with me for over two years, who although he just turned 40 still has the athletic ability of a gazelle and the sparkling wit to match. When he started working with me he had acute Achilles tendonitis and he had 8 weeks to his first marathon. He couldn’t run for more than about 10k without pain. I distinctly remember the look on his face when I told him his mileage was getting cut in half 8 weeks before a marathon, but he went with it and successfully ran his first marathon. Since then he has done several other races including two more full marathons, a half marathon PB and a 500 kilometer bike ride from London to Paris. Last weekend he beat his personal best on the marathon by over 30 minutes by staying consistent and running 4 times per week with a gradual buildup to 65-75k per week over time.
TW is a woman who came to me only a few months ago with another problem – this time ITBS, or iliotibial band syndrome and she couldn’t run at all, but still wanted to compete in the 10k with a restriction of only running 3 times per week (with a holiday mixed in for good measure). She had previously done marathon training so was used to volume, but had to have some adjustments to her speed (I actually sped her UP to give her a proper gait) and work on her IT band issues, which resolved fairly quickly. Her initial goal was to complete the 10k, but then a few weeks out we changed that to doing it in under an hour, which she had never done. She finished in 58:30 with a smile on her face and no IT band issues.
CM is a woman who I have been working with for about a year who came to me because she liked to walk long distances with a goal of completing another ½ marathon walk in another short time line. She is obese and has some other health issues that make it difficult for her to move. We got her through that race, however she continued to suffer from calf and ankle issues and had to restrict her volume so that she could stay consistent with her workouts. She completed another ½ marathon walk last weekend only about 10 minutes slower than the year previous – having never walked for more than an hour in training. For her a ½ marathon walk takes four hours but she got through it, even on a brutally hot day.
These three people all made significant accomplishments last weekend. The point I’m trying to make is that different people accomplish things differently. All three of these athletes came at their respective events from different places, skill levels and levels of progression. However, all had a successful result following a plan – and in CM’s case that plan was simply to get it done even though we both knew she was going to have a hard time. With all the athletes they did what they could to make consistent progress towards the goal they had set – and then those got modified when progress was either better or worse than expected.
Anyone can be successful given the right tools and progression, no matter what you want to do. Want to bench press 300 pounds? Want to run a marathon? Want to climb a mountain? Great. The idea is to set the goal and then work towards it carefully, mindfully towards what your body is capable of at that time and then just keeping moving forward. And you’re never going to get anywhere by trying to not listening and respecting your body when you try to push it too far too soon. The great thing is, it will tell you when you’re pushing too hard and try to stop you – you just have to listen.
Getting hurt doesn’t mean you have to stop – it means you have to learn what caused you to get hurt, and either stop doing it or modify what you’re doing in order to let it recover and not have it happen again down the road. Attack the problem, not the symptom. With a couple of these athletes it was a simple form adjustment and being mindful of what they were doing, which you should be doing anyway.
So today, tomorrow, whenever you start working towards something be smart, progress yourself within your tolerance limits and above all, listen to your body. Oh, and hire a good coach. I happen to know one, and he trains runners virtually as well if you’re interested. Maybe next year you can have the same success that all of these people did, even though they started from completely different places.
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