In my last post for Trail Running Magazine, I talked about training and how to balance decent training with the complexities of daily life. Sorry folks, I didn’t come up with a solution….mostly because there is not a one-size fits all easy fix. It can be tough, but busier people than me manage and there are ways and means of getting the balance right….most of the time.
So I recovered from injury and focused on regular training. I spent my time out on the fells, the trails and the road. I did speed work, I hate hill repeats..but I did them. I also cut down on racing. I was a very determined squirrel…wearing Roclites.
And then things started to plateau. I had made some real progress and it was such a high hitting PB after PB. So when things flatlined it was a bit demotivating. It made me reflect on what it is to be a runner. But before we get into that, here’s a few things that helped me get things going again:
1. Recognise that it’s bound to happen- it’s part of the big picture. Take some time to look at your long term progress. You’re better than when you started. Put things back into perspective. Take stock.
2. Try not to focus on PB’s for a bit. It takes time to get faster, especially at the sharp end. Vary your training and remember why you love running. Slow right down and rediscover the joy of the trails. If you take the pressure off, you might see results without even trying.
3. Do something different. Here’s a good cheat for you. Not all Parkruns are equal. So you’re not getting faster at your usual one. Go on tour! You might find a different course is flatter and you can get your temporary PB fix without the hard work- this is nice for a confidence boost when you’re losing a little motivation.
Finally, just remember how lucky you are to be able to get out and run the trails. Plateau or PB, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about getting out and challenging yourself. Training plans are great but remember why you love running and make time for the joy of it.
So we overcome a lot of everyday challenges as trail runners, from injury to juggling life to plateauing and motivation…
In life you are defined by a variety of things, it could be past experiences, personality, quirks and idiosyncrasies in your behaviour, your interests. When it comes to running, it can be quite strange- you will be defined by your running before you are aware that you are a ‘runner’. This is because for 90% of the population, your family, friends and colleagues you are probably that person who runs. You are the one who is outside banging some miles in the rain, you are the one who has run to work as you arrive in your kit, you are probably (they may think) the one who says no to cake in the staff room (ha! How wrong they are), you are the healthy one, the motivated one, the crazy one who will be pounding the pavement, track, trails or fells no matter what the weather, time of day or place.
Oh yes and you’re the one who will have ‘no knees left if you carry on like that.’
At some point, you may see yourself as a runner, not just ‘someone who runs.’ Does that have to be when you’ve run a 16 minute 5k? Cracked a sub 3hr marathon? Or when you’ve won your local park run? Or when you’ve finished in the top 50 of the Marathon Des Sables? No. a runner is someone who loves to run, who hates to run, who is running and will continue to run. You make your own definition but be prepared for the people around you to have their own definition as well.
I guess all we runners can do is keep going, even if you’re in the flat world of the plateau right now, you’re still moving forward.