After reading about my running accolades, you may not believe me when I say this, but I have not always enjoyed running.
Hated it in fact.
The first time my high school had a mandatory cross country trial, I hid in the bathrooms. I did not even want to be considered, cross country practice within PE lessons was torture enough.
But somehow, in those PE lessons, I noticed that I was ending up near the front of the class, and before I knew it, I was on the cross country team, racing every Thursday for my school.
But I still didn’t enjoy it.
Why would anyone choose to put themselves through this for fun?
That being said, I was not a quitter, and no matter what it is, I always try, so I committed to getting better, and gave it my best.
I was still far back from the leaders of the race, but suddenly, our best girl on the team was in my view, within reach actually, and something awoke in me that I had never experienced before; Competitiveness.
I wanted to get her, and not only did I want to pass her, I wanted to pass every runner in front of her.
The next race, I beat her, but that was not enough. I wanted to be better, no, I wanted to be the best.
Once I became the best in my town, I wanted to be the best in my county, and then I wanted to be the best in the country, I wanted to accomplish the ultimate runner dream; represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
12 years later, I finally completed that one.
Why Is It Important To Set Long Term Goals As A Runner?
In March, I represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the 2016 World Half Marathon Championships, my number one running goal.
I spent all those years of my life committing to this goal, using it as motivation when I was struggling on a workout, thinking about holding that jersey in my hands, knowing I had earned it, believing that someday, somehow, I was going to get there.
Now, I am not saying that every runner out there can run for their country. I am not saying that you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to, that is just not true.
I wish it was, but realistically, I am never going to be a WNBA player no matter how much I put my mind to it. I just don’t have the genetics (or height) to make that a reality, but that is okay, because as fun as it would be, I just don’t want it enough to go through the necessary steps (and surgery!) it would require to get there.
My point is, pick a goal that is far away. So far out of your reach, that right now, it doesn’t even seem like it could even be possible.
Pick a goal that would make you so proud, goosebumps cover your skin, and tears fill your eyes at the thought of accomplishing it.
It took me over a decade to reach my goal, and as you can imagine, there were many downs, many moments I wanted to quit (not just the goal, but running in general).
But it is all part of the journey.
When You Want To Give Up, Feel the Accomplishment
The more setbacks there are, the more you appreciate it when it does happen, and if it means that much to you, if it is something that you truly want, and are prepared to do whatever it takes, then you WILL get there, if you believe that you deserve it.
Those moments when things go wrong are tests, to see just how much you want it.
You have to expect that things will go wrong.
It is not those days where you feel good, where everything is going right that truly defines you.
Anyone can see their dream become a reality and stay focused when things are going your way, but it is those moments when everything is falling apart, when you are deciding whether to throw in the towel, THAT is when you lock in your future that someday you will do it.
I am not saying that you will achieve it within the next year or even few years. If your ultimate goal, is to run a sub 3:00 marathon, and your PR is 4:42, you cannot expect to accomplish it by next fall no matter how much you commit to this goal today.
You have to want it enough to slog, for years on end, with no real end in sight, keeping that unwavering faith that you deserve this, and you will achieve it, no matter how dire it seems.
Finding the Right People To Believe In Your Journey
Of course, there are some other people and tools involved in chasing a dream. You have to find the right support network and resources to help you get there.
Surround yourself with people who will encourage and cheer for you no matter what. Family and friends can go a long way to helping you stay on track and believing that you will get the result you deserve. They are your biggest fans, and will build your confidence when you are feeling low.
Having an outside expert keeps you on track
Finding a coach or expert to help you create a plan to help you get there. Having that outside opinion, who can see the big picture really will make all the difference. Runners Connect has wonderful community support and individualized training plans that will be tailored to you and your goal. Sharing your goal with your coach will keep you accountable and honest with your training too!
How to beat the naysayers
Along your journey, you will meet some people who are not as supportive with your goal. May let out a chuckle when you tell them what you want to do, or try to persuade you to do something to pull you in the opposite direction with phrases like, “does it really matter if you miss one 20 mile long run tomorrow morning? Come out to the bar with us instead”
Well, no, it probably doesn’t matter, but that will make achieving your goal just a little bit harder than it was before, so that is your choice of which path you want to take.
Be your own best friend
But, there is someone else who will try to hold you back. Try to tell you that you are not good enough. That you are never going to reach this goal, so you might as well not even bother.
Can you guess who that person is?
We are our worst enemies, and we are so nasty to ourselves, even when we are so loving to others.
When I am struggling in my workouts, or on a day I just don’t want to run (and yes, even elites have those!), that voice tells me, you are not good enough, you shouldn’t have eaten that large bowl of ice cream last night, what a failure you are. That is why you don’t look like the other runners out there. You will never achieve your goal, because you are just useless.
Scary thoughts, but we all have them.
Well, I know I do!
But try to catch yourself doing this, and be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, and that is all you can truly ask for.
Treat yourself like you would treat your 17 year old daughter, sister, or friend. Be as loving and supportive as you can, and you will find that you can overcome those thoughts much easier than you would be able to if you just take the emotional beating.
I know it is easy to say, especially when it comes to our negative thoughts about the way we look, but trust me when I say that every single runner out there, yes, even the elites you think look like they are chiseled to perfection, have doubts about themselves, and especially how they look.
But you have to see the beauty in who you are, and trust that you are stronger than you realize, you just need to allow yourself to show it.
Finding the Right Tools To Get You There
There will always be some tangibles that you need to chase your goal:
Running is a fairly low maintenance sport, but you still need a good pair of running shoes that fit your feet. Chose them by how comfortable they feel to you, not what your running friend recommends.
Every person is different, and comfort is your best friend when it comes to selecting the right pair.
A running watch
A good running watch, or preferably a GPS watch will help you keep track of your training, and makes it nice and easy to instantly upload your stats onto your favorite running tracker (I love Strava!).
Although, one thing I should say about using GPS watches is that it is all too easy to get “addicted to them”.
How can you be addicted to a watch you ask?
Well, unfortunately, runners are known for being stubborn, Type A, competitive people.
Having a watch there that is telling you exactly how fast you are going, reminding you that you could be running slower than you were last week, and if that is the case….WOW! You are so SLOW, you might as well give up now…..or so our minds tell us.
When you run with a GPS watch, it can be VERY tempting to look at it ALL the time. But I am asking you to do your best to refrain from that by turning the pace setting off.
I am not saying that you can’t look afterwards, just don’t let it affect your run during, or you will find that your pace fluctuates a lot, because you are letting a watch tell you how you feel, rather than what is in your heart.
I love looking at my stats after on Strava. You just have to remember that running involves so many variables, that it is almost impossible to compare two runs, so just don’t tie your self worth to the time it says.
How do I know this so well?
I have been there, many times!
How to Recover Like a Champ
Speaking of recovery, it is a critical part of running to the best of your ability. In some ways it is the most important part.
I already mentioned it is important to keep your easy runs slow, but what else can be done?
Sleep for success
I am sure you will not be surprised when I say that sleep is crucial.
Getting enough sleep gives your body the time to repair itself after the stress you put on it through training.
This is actually one aspect of my training I have always struggled with.
I run 80-90 miles a week most of the year….yes, you did read that correctly, it was not a typo 😉 But even during those high volume weeks, I often lay in bed, staring at the wall, tossing and turning, unable to shut my brain off.
But I should be exhausted, right?
You would think, and my body is, but the more we stress out about that we have to do something, the more we struggle with it.
I have battled insomnia most of my life, and eventually I had to go see a sleep therapist to help.
Things are better now, but that is part of this process of being prepared to do all the little things to achieve your goal. My sleep was holding me back, so I did something about it, even if that meant battling my ego to overcome the stigma associated with seeing a therapist.
Eat for success
Another aspect of recovery is eating the right food. I have been working with a consultant to change my diet to make sure my body has access to the best nutrients I can provide….although I still have a sweet treat every single day 🙂
Products for success
You may find other products work for you to assist with recovery, but that is your journey to find what makes you feel better.
Use Podcasts Or Music For Daily Motivation
You will also learn tips and tricks along the way that could help you with some of your struggles.
Most importantly of all, when it comes to this journey you are on, remember to make it fun.
Yes, there will be a lot of moments when you are not enjoying it, and instead wondering why you are putting yourself through it, but overall, you are doing this because it is a journey.
Take the pressure off yourself, and trust that things will work out somehow, and if you can embrace the lows, and enjoy the highs, you will get there quicker and enjoy it more.
About The Author
Tina Muir is a Saucony sponsored professional ELITE runner who recently represented Great Britain in the World Half Marathon Championships. Tina is the Community Manager for RunnersConnect and host of popular running podcast Run to the Top. Tina is originally from St. Albans, UK, now living in Lexington, KY with her husband (and coach) Steve. With PRs of 16:08 (5k), 33:24 (10k), 1:13 (half marathon), 2:41 (marathon), Tina may have elite speed, but she candidly shares what it means to train, live and breathe your dreams (while still maintaining balance!) on her blog tinamuir.com.