We spoke with four runners about how to improve your running game, mind, body and spirit. Here’s what they had to say.
You need to work out your mental strength. Having doubts about your ability doesn’t make you weak, it makes you normal. I’ll always have those negative voices, but I’m not afraid, I’m prepared to be able to get through it. By taking ownership, you aren’t a bad person. Don’t be ashamed, just work on it like anything else. Over the years, I have had my own challenges with confidence. It’s important to take the time for preparing your mind because when those dark moments set in, often it’s because you’re so much inside your head. So how do you keep that negative talk from sidelining you completely? Finding a phrase to focus on, one that conjures up a positive vibe, is the key. I found for myself, having a confidence journal, as you do a training journal, helped me reframe my mindset. Now it’s not always about running, it may be about being a friend to other moms like myself; regardless, it really is helpful to end my day on a positive note and acknowledge myself in this way. There are always people who will run a better race than you. Acknowledge your own progress. You can do amazing things if you’re nice to yourself.
Kara Goucher, from Queens, New York, is a two-time Olympic marathoner and former American half-marathon champion. She’s also a mother and an author and holds retreats in her adopted hometown, Boulder, Colorado. For more information, see KaraGoucher.com.
Depending on what event you’re racing, the type of power you’re going to need to tap into can be different. I need explosive power, and the more anaerobic an event is, the more you’ll need it at your fingertips. It’s going to be a lot less important in the marathon than in the 1,500-metre. Still, many times a PB is hit or missed depending on how you’re able to recruit explosive power in the last few kilometres of a race. The type of strength training you need to achieve that power will depend on your event. For a marathon, putting in speed work, including sprint drills and strides at the end of your long distance runs, is a great way to build speed and power without bulking up. You need at least three weeks to see some benefit when it comes to power. If you put in work twice a week all year long, you’ll reach your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Hills are also helpful in power development—twenty- to thir- ty-second uphill sprints, and also incorporate strides. Focus on form, get up on the balls of your feet and drive your arms, and concentrate on maintaining a fast cadence. You don’t feel like you’re doing speed work, but it’s at the end of your workout, so you are working hard. I have a training program for overall athleticism and injury prevention. It’s about building a strong foundation. Focus on what you need to work on and then, with hard work, unleash your power within.
Kate Van Buskirk, 30, from Brampton, Ontario, is Canada’s indoor mile record holder, with a time of 4:26:92. The 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist is a two-time national cross-country champion. Her Instagram account is @K8VBeast.
I believe in volume. Many runners hold back from the long run, but you need to take comfort in that back-third distance—get used to that 22K to 35K space. Runners do a lot of 10K and even 15K runs, but if you’re looking to run a marathon, or more, prep for the 22K and then 30K run scenario. You’ll be that much better on race day when your stride and posture begin to turn. Running more than a marathon distance to build endurance takes at least three long runs. At 40K to 50K, your body is asking to stop. I need at least three to four long runs a week and for endurance, I’ll sacrifice shorter runs. It’s about learning to run on tired legs, learning to adapt to your joint and soft tissues at those points. Even if you have to take a day off the next day, it’s worth it. Runners tend to focus on weekly mileage. It’s something we brag about, but it doesn’t serve the benefit of being a closer in endu- rance distances. From a mental perspective, the mind only knows two things—the pictures we draw and the words we tell it—so don’t use the words pain, suffering and agony. By painting the training run or race as being hard, it becomes hard. I love running because I can push through limits and create and break new ceilings all the time.
Dave Proctor, 37, from Okotoks, Alta., recently attempted to run across Canada to raise $1-million for Rare Diseases, a cause inspired by his nine-year-old son, Sam. He owns the Canadian record in the 24-hour road race. To learn more, go to outrunrare.com.
Don’t think about how long you’ll be running fast for. Instead, enjoy the moment of the pace you’re at, keep going as far as possible with it and gradually build up to your top speed. In order to run faster, runners need to focus on developing natural stamina and quickness. It’s been very beneficial during certain training blocks to focus on speed in one workout session, then focus on strength in another. During speed wor- kouts, usually the focus is 300m, 200m and some 600m for a little extra strength. Keep changing up your workouts, so that when race day comes, you’ve gotten experience in all manners of practice. Run fast in practice to run fast in a race. Having speed and being able to use it effectively are different things. During a race, you should always be attentive and be thinking of when you’re comfortable with planning your kick and, with that in mind, always have a little energy set aside for if a competitor is closing in with 50 or 100 metres to go. When I’m trying to tap into my extra kick, I think about all I have put into training, how I may hurt in the moment, but how I’ll hurt even more if I finish the race wishing I could have dug deeper. You can run fast. Prepare yourself in practice, execute during your race. Do not let your mind beat you. Want to get to that next level? Decide that being good isn’t good enough.
Justyn Knight, 22, from Toronto, Ontario, is the 2017 NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Champion. In 2017, Knight won the individual ACC championship, and Syracuse, his American university, won the ACC team title for its fifth straight year. Follow him on Twitter, @Justyn_Knight.