13 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Distance Runner!

Do you want to make the jump?  Great End of Season Article!

By Mike Smith, Mascenic

I’ve been involved with running since I was thirteen.  I joined the cross country team back then and was pretty awful that first season.  And while I never achieved everything I could have from the sport, over the years I’ve learned a few things that can make everyone a better runner.

1 – Run more miles.  Some say the 10,000 hour rule is a bunch of bull.  The 10,000 hour rule states that once you’ve done something for 10,000 hours you are now ready to be good at it.  The violin, badminton, running.  However, if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything, chances are you’ll be better at it.  Without using 10,000 as a magic number, the more you do something, the more your body gets used to it and the easier it becomes.  The beauty with endurance sports is the more you run, the easier EVERYTHING becomes.

2 – Buy a watch.  Not a fancy GPS, satellite radio, espresso making kind.  But a regular running watch that takes split times.  All the other stuff is nice but can actually get in the way of good training.  Often having “real time” data just gets in the way of some good training by making you think you need to be doing more faster.

3 – Get a running buddy.  Running is and can be boring.  Having someone to pass the time with makes doing that drudgery easier.  Partners in pain.  Brothers in boringness.  Sisters in sweat.  But getting out the door counts and having someone you “owe” a run with is one helluva motivator.

4 – Learn to run by yourself.  Everyone knows how to run by themselves, I mean it’s not rocket science.  But learn that running by yourself has its advantages too.  Nothing better to clear your head than a run.   Solve the world’s problems or set goals and put away demons.  Also learning to run what your body needs, not what the group is doing, can earn pay dirt down the road.  Take the opportunity to get used to it and learn what your body is saying.

5 – Be specifically focused.  If you want to be good at something, you had better work specifically at it.  If you think you will get good at running by chance, good luck with that.  The sport is too hard to simply become good because you want to for 10 weeks.  Every day you need to think about what you’re going to do that day to get better at running.  If you think you can take weeks off here and there and be your best you are a fool.

6 – Be peripherally focused.  If running becomes the only thing in your life, you stand a real chance of burning out before you reach your potential.  If you want to be good at running you need to focus on it.  If you focus solely on running, chances are you will never meet your goals and you may even run worse than if you simply flew by the seat of your pants.  Running is important, but so is family, school, the opposite sex, other outlets that you can use to let off steam and set your life in balance.  Don’t be over absorbed in running.

7 – Stop thinking running is a fringe sport.  Don’t think that going out for a run on holidays, late at night, early in the morning, twice a day, etc. is weird.  Early man woke, realized they were hungry, and started running.  This happened every day for his entire life.  Didn’t matter if it was Christmas, Thanksgiving or his birthday.  Back then none of those existed, nor did they matter.  Point is, if they wanted to eat, or refrain from being eaten, they had to run.  If the sun came up they were running.  So it’s only recently we think going for a run is weird.

8 – Watch Workout Wednesdays on Flotrack.  See how the best workout.  Watch women rip times that you only imagine.  Watch incredibly ridiculous workouts that only a handful of runners can actually do.  But realize there was a time they couldn’t do them either.  Realize that the human machine can always do more.  Which means you can.

9 – Read the following books.  “The Men of Oregon”, “Running with the Buffaloes”, “Running for My Life”, “Daniel’s Running Formula”, “Duel in the Sun”, “Kings of the Road”, “Once a Runner” (this is a must read for every runner!).  Don’t emulate the characters in the books exactly, but realize what you read is another person’s perception of running.  If they are in a book, chances are, they are pretty damn good.  However, all the people in these books, real or fiction, are different from one another, and different from you, and thereby probably wouldn’t be any good if they were like the others.

10 – Help someone else get into running.  Running is the easiest, cheapest, best way to a healthier life.  Give the gift of health through running to someone else.  Maybe it’s a parent, or a relative.  Maybe it’s another peer that needs a change in their life.  Maybe it’s someone younger that hasn’t found their way in sports or life.  Everyone can benefit from our sport, no matter how fast they run or whether they will ever win anything.

11 – Ask yourself how good do you want to be.  There is no harm in going out for a run with no intention other than to get in a run.  Running for the enjoyment of running.  However, if you have certain standards you wish to attain, then you better be honest with yourself and figure out exactly what you want.  It’s important to be realistic, but also if you really want to get better, there needs to be a dream tied to it.  Don’t be fearful of dreaming big.  Just recognize that for a perfect performance you need perfect conditions, not just happy thoughts.

12 – Get a coach.  Now this might not be a formal agreement, but get someone who will give you objective feedback.  Maybe you think running 100 miles will make you better and maybe it will.  But if you’ve only run 40 miles a week, that kind of jump is too great at the moment.  Having someone you trust to help guide you, to bounce ideas off of is a good thing.

13 – Join a running club.  Or make your own.  Get a group of people together in some sort of fashion, get out and run something fun.  Run to a breakfast place.  Run to an ice cream stand.  Get out and explore.  Run at night with a headlamp.  Run at night without a headlamp.  Just get out… and run!

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