Speed, strength, endurance, fatigue resistance – each matters significantly in determining how fast or far you run and how closely you come to achieving your goals in a race. Objective metrics certainly have value in running and their ability to show us our progress is the reason why so many of us stick with running over another sport.
Yet speed and endurance are not the only factors into your progress, accomplishments, and most of all happiness as a runner. Physical characteristics do indeed matter in running, but I would argue that there are certain mental characteristics you need as a runner – no matter how slow or fast, how long or short you run.
Along with smart training methods, intuition is the best tool a runner can have for preventing injury. Intuition is that feeling in your gut to back out of a marathon or other race when you aren’t properly trained for the distance. Intuition is that voice in the back of your mind that tells you to take an extra rest day or ease up on the pace in a speed workout, lest you incur injury or overtrain.
And intuition is the deep and unwavering belief in your potential and abilities as a runner, that you can do hard things, that you can chase that goal despite doubts in yourself (or doubts from others).
No coach or running book will provide you with the trait of intuition. The skill of intuition must come from within you, honed by listening to your body’s cues, discerning between nerves and gut feeling, and building your confidence in yourself.
Some days running just does not feel good, fun, or in any way an activity which you want to do. A nice warm bed, a bottle of wine, or Netflix call to you and you know that you won’t have a great run anyway. But consistency is key, and grit is the characteristic which separates consistent runners from those who easily fall off of your training.
Grit manifests when you lace on your shoes and head out for a run despite any and all excuses. Grit is running on a rainy day, when you’re tired, or when you’re emotional or stressed. Like any muscle, grit becomes stronger each time you run when even cleaning the bathroom sounds more enjoyable than running. Of course, grit must be guided by intuition – there are days where pushing too hard won’t make you a strong runner, but only lead to injury.
Grit produces the resolve and tenacity that keeps you running even when all sorts of obstacles come your wait. Grit keeps your spirits up after a missed goal in a race. Grit even lets you accomplish those cross-training sessions when you’re injured and must slog it out each day in the pool, on the bike, or on the elliptical.
Who hasn’t finished a disappointing race and thought, “I need to redeem myself right now”? Who hasn’t missed a time goal and immediately searched for the next race? The natural desire to achieve goals compels many runners to race and race again, rather than taking time off to recover and train hard for a future race.
Patience proves time and time again much easier to preach than practice. There is nothing easy about shelving a goal for the next 3-6 months or even longer as you train again and wish for the best come race day. When you’re injured, patience prevents you from logging miles before you’re fully recovered, thus helping you avoid injury or other problems later down the road.
Patience accompanies the decision to release yourself from the pressure of the clock and focus on the journey, rather than solely the end goal. I could have signed up for multiple marathons for 2016 and ran myself into the ground in pursuit of that 3:30:00. But, as my intuition tells me, I’m not built for racing several marathons a year, not without resenting my training, enduring joyless races, and overtraining. Why ruin the journey for the end result?
Linking up for Coaches’ Corner!
What characteristics do you believe runners need?
What’s your immediate reaction to a missed goal or bad race?
What’s your workout today?