A change of strategy

It’s just under two weeks until my big Autumn race – the BUPA Great South Run, a 10 mile race in Portsmouth. This was the first big race of my running career and is the first race that I will return to in my second year of running. I’m pretty excited about going back this time knowing what to expect from the day and really hoping to improve on my performance from last year.

At the start of the summer I had set myself a goal to beat last year’s time and run the entire way with no stopping for walking breaks. But as time has gone on I have realised that achieving both of those is not realistic. For a couple of reasons – twisted ankles and transitioning into minimal trainers – I have not been able to do enough training to see me through 10 miles non stop at the speed I would need to run to bag a better time.

A few weeks ago I had started to get frustrated about this. Why couldn’t I run fast non-stop? Why did my body feel the need to stop and take walking breaks when other people I know can run consistently with seeming ease? Was it really a physical thing or was it actually my mind getting in the way of my progress?

All these thoughts had started to make me into a frustrated runner and I’d actually started to dread going out for a run wondering at what point I would ‘give up’ and walk that day. I think I probably fell out of love with running for a while – I was still going out there and getting on with it but getting no sense of achievement really, more a sense of failure everytime I took a walking break.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was out with a couple of friends, both are runners and one completed an ironman this summer. I was telling them about my lack of progress and how frustrated I was becoming. “Who says that you have to run the whole way?” was the response from my ironman friend “loads of people run long distances and take walking breaks, people have run sub 3.30 marathons that way. If it works for you then why not embrace it and just see how fast you can get”

It got me thinking. After races runners only really talk about times and whether or not the race was ‘good’. No-one ever questions whether they ran the whole thing or whether they had to stop to walk at some point along the way. Me and only me has made running non stop into a big thing in my head and is now beating myself up about not achieving it – which in itself is making it harder for me to achieve. What’s actually important to me is running a faster time in the Great South Run than I did last year. If I ran the whole thing but came in slower it wouldn’t feel like progress at all.

So for the last two weeks I have embraced the run/walk and started to enjoy my running again. I have set my Garmin to interval training mode for 5 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking. Last weekend I covered 9.2 miles in this way, having previously not run further than 10K since April. I felt comfortable and I could have kept going and my pace was close to last years GSR pace – pretty good for a training run. Most importantly my sense of achievement is back, my love of running is back.

We are all individuals and what works for one will not work for others. Some people might read this and consider my approach to be ‘cheating’ but for me the most important thing is that I’m out there, exercising, achieving my goals and enjoying it.

So this year I will be run/walking the Great South Run feeling quietly confident that a better time is well within my grasp. Just 13 days to go – bring it on!

7 thoughts

  1. I think I am just that: thinking walking doesn`t count. But running, even though it is a beautiful sport, IS hard. And it`s supposed to be that way so embrace your abilities and don`t feel bad about walking. After all being able to say that you conquered 10 miles, or a 10k, or a 5k or an ironman is a great accomplishment!

    1. Thank you Anna. I still want to aim towards running non stop – it’s just that for this race in particular I know it’s not realistic so it’s best to change my strategy. I really do find running non-stop hard but I’ll get there in the end. For now I am embracing where I’m at and enjoying the journey rather than stressing about it.

  2. Lots of people walk during races, maybe that’s a big secret. It’s important not to get disappointed. If walking helps you get through your training runs and finish races, fantastic. Eventually you will be able to run the distance you want to without stopping. It just takes time.
    You will get there.

    1. Thank you. In all the races I have run there have always been people walking and I never think that they are cheating! For some reason I got really hard on myself for a while about taking walking breaks but I know now they’ll help me achieve my goals so I’m much more relaxed about it. I know I’ll get there eventually!

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