Don’t dream of winning, train for it.

Running summary for w/c Monday 23rd January
Miles: 28.44
Cross training: Spinning

Those are Mo Farah’s words of inspiration as part of Nike’s #makeitcount campaign.

Don’t dream of winning, train for it.

I love it.

I’m a big fan of Nike’s campaign. The athletes’ mantras coupled with photos of them mid-training drum home just how freakin’ hard these people work to train their bodies into machines. They didn’t just jump from their high school A team into the GB olympics team – they woke up early, got home late, said no to the pub, moved around the world to train, and stayed focused throughout periods of immense physical exhertion.

Of course that is their job as athletes, but constantly improving at their sport is like me constantly hankering for a promotion at work. Could I put everything else in my life to one side to get one, work myself ragged, and beat off constant competition from colleagues? Only if it was something that I was genuinely and wholeheartedly passionate about, and something that I was willing to continue to work hard at. And that’s what sets these athletes apart. Sport is their ‘thing’. This is what they choose to do and what they choose to channel all of their personal energy and passion into.

Most of my personal time and energy is well and truly occupied with work, personal research, politics, and friends, but perhaps the time and energy that I set aside for running can be more focused.

Anyone who has been following my blog over the last year will know that the running dream I keep narrowly missing has been a sub-2hr half marathon. All of my other race times indicate that this is an acheivable goal, yet I keep missing out. Why? Because I spend too long dreaming of it and not enough time training and focusing on it. Obviously. Thanks Mo…

Over recent months I have chatted with some incredible runners, either at my club, at parkruns or at races and have discovered that they rarely just happen to be ‘good’ at it. Instead they talk about how they started out, scraping 2hr half marathons and 50min 10Ks. They remember their first complete lap of the park, or their first mile run without stopping as vividly as I do, and they are proof that if you dream of getting faster then only hard work and determination will get you there.

I guess the reason that I am writing about these adverts and the reason why it resonated with me so much is that I could be described as something of an over acheiver – until I started running. I did well at school, and then college and university, and I’ve done well at work too. I was an accomplished musician in my teens and trained as a ballet dancer from the age of 4 until 12. I passed exam after exam, played concert after concert and have never actually failed anything. Of course none of that came easily – I worked really bloody hard to acheive what I did – but it always felt quite natural.

I studied hard because I loved it (still do!) and because every ounce of my being constantly craves to learn more. I practised my music daily as a child and teen because I knew that I wouldn’t be a ‘good’ violist or pianist until playing felt like second nature.

Running has become an increasingly big part of my life and I no longer feel like I’m making time for it. Training no longer feels like a chore that keeps me away from Hollyoaks. It is slowly integrating itself into my everyday life, and is slowly but surely starting to feel as natural to me as picking up my books to study or picking up my viola did all those years ago.

I think that taking up running has been an enormous challenge because it is something that I started doing as an adult. As children we are so much more adaptable, but trying to get into the habit to train and improve as an adult has been quite strange. Running has required me to learn something new and practising really bloody hard at it.

But I want to get better at it. I want that sub-2hr half marathon.

Running is hard and this shouldn’t be underestimated. And when you are trying to improve every extra yard is an acheivement – this shouldn’t be underestimated either. If you keep running the same route, over and over again, gradually over time you will get faster. But if you are trying to simultaneously get faster and run further (as is the case for most people training for half or full marathons), running laps of your neighbourhood simply ain’t gonna cut it.

Getting complacent while looking at my shorter race times, and going on gentle jogs around the block isn’t going to help me keep pace for 13.1 miles. It turns out that nothing but focused training and dedication is going to do that. So I’ve woken up and smelt the trainers – if I want my dream to come true, I need to train harder.

Thanks Mo.

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