I’ve yet to meet a runner that didn’t want to run faster and get a new PB. Sure, plenty will say they are not bothered by times and they just run for the fun of it. And in the next breath they are talking about the goal for their next race or parkrun is to be faster than the last one.
We don’t need to be super competitive to want to set new personal bests, and the fantastic thing about running is that we don’t have to be going after the win to get those PBs.
But here’s the thing: many of us make the mistake of trying too hard. We set our time target, no matter how conservative or ambitious, and that target is where we put our focus on race day. As a result, we go out too fast, we panic about putting time in the bank in the early part of the race, and we get sucked into the lure of getting “that time”.
But I believe this is a mistake. Instead, we need to focus on the process, not the prize. If we execute the process well, the prize of the PB will be ours – and with a lot less stress and a lot more joy.
How do I know this? I’ve lived it and I still live it. At a recent parkrun I did just this. I put all my focus on the process of running rather than the final finish time. Having not run a parkrun event for over a year and still testing my recovery from months of some strange respiratory issue, I had no idea of what I was capable of. I had a target in mind of course, but I knew that if I were to focus just on that, it would consume me.
Instead, I put my focus on the process of running. I broke the course down into chunks and ran each of those chunks paying attention to running form, breathing and pace in that moment. It was still hard – very hard! But I was confident that if I followed the process of running, and used those skills that I teach other athletes, and ran each chunk well, then I would achieve my target time.
Not every chunk went to plan, but most did and in fact they were run better than I had predicted. As I crossed the line I was amazed to see that I was 30 seconds faster than my target time!
The longer the event, the more critical it is the follow the process and not the outcome. At least with a 5k, the misery of over-egging it or the frustration of under-pacing is done with pretty quickly and we usually have another opportunity to try again soon.
But with half-marathons, marathons and ultras, that pain can be prolonged for many miles!
So, it’s all good and well me saying “follow the process”, but what process is that? And that’s a great question!
And it’s exactly why I believe we all need to learn how to run. There are skills we all need, and it’s these skills that make up the process.
Through my blog posts, workshops, coaching and ‘soon to be revealed’ online courses through the RunTeach Academy (exciting!), l share what these skills are. The RunTeach Academy will teach you how you can take these skills and create your own personalised process so you can go and smash those PBs!
In the meantime, you can start by breaking down your runs and races into chunks and running those chunks well – one chunk at a time. You may not be able to do this for a whole run yet, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get.