How to Be a Better Runner

When I first returned to running as an adult I went through a period of time when I didn’t think of myself as a “Runner.” I mean, real runners do stuff like races, right? Then I did some races and thought, “Well, I’m not really a runner, real runners do stuff like marathons.” Then I ran a marathon. “Well, that’s the last one, so I’m glad it was good. Guess I’ll go back to not being a runner.” Then I built a running website for my sister, a real runner. “But I’m not a serious runner like her. I’ve only done one marathon.” Then I ran another marathon. “Well, I’ve never won anything.” Then I won my age group in a 10k. You get the idea.

One day somewhere in there it became undeniable. I am a runner. A real runner. A serious runner. I’ve never won a race, I’m not elite, I’m not chasing down prize money, but I am a real, serious runner and it is obvious to everyone who meets me. Even though I am not training for anything, I am maintaining more than 25 miles per week. There is no longer any way for me to deny my status as “a runner.”

And somewhere along the way I realized I had gotten much better … drastically better … light-freaking-years-better at being a runner, and that I deserved the title. “How?” you may ask. “What’s your secret special sauce to becoming better?”

The truth is that, for me anyway, it was an accident. I didn’t have a lot of positive role models growing up. But after becoming part of the Salty Running community and writing alongside accomplished ultrarunners, track stars, supermoms, Olympic trials athletes, women I consider to be slightly superhuman and women I consider to be far more humble than they ought to be, I was exposed to the secret of getting better and managed to adopt it through social osmosis.

Are you ready? Here it is.

Do the f*cking work.

Yep, that’s it. Do the work. Get off your ass right now and give me 20. No, but seriously do 20 push ups right now followed by 20 crunches followed by 20 squats and throw in a 20 second plank. Put down the ice cream, Bertha and make sure you eat something green today. Push yourself harder than you planned to one day and make the next about active recovery. Make time for strength training. Do some motherf***ing yoga. Go to bed early. Then get out of bed, get on the GD treadmill or street or track or whatever surface you’ve got and do not bitch about the hills.

And when you’re done with that, read race reports and training logs from people who race better than you and take notes on their training and racing strategy. Watch videos of races to see people who are greater than you in action. If you want to compete, read race reports from your direct competitors if they write them. Study how others train. Study how winners think. Learn about different training plans. Try new things when the old things don’t work. Find a coach or a team if you need accountability. Make a plan, even if you’re in a holding pattern, and stick to it.

Does that sound overwhelming? Lucky for you, Salty Running is about motivating you to do the work, and we tell you about our own experiences so you can learn from the us (our successes and our failures). You might take a rest day, but on rest days you stretch, you strengthen, you learn. There is no such thing as a day off when you’re trying to be your best.

If that’s too hard for you, that is okay. We all have limitations, which is okay provide our expectations are realistic given our level of commitment. But if your performance is not what you desire, and you really really want it, do the work.

It’s not comfortable. It’s not always fun. But it does work.

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. She has 8 more minutes to knock off her marathon for a 3:40 BQ, and will get there or die trying. Her writing is an eclectic mix of finding wholeness as an average runner, news reporting, curious reactions, satirical humor and more.

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3 comments

  1. BOOM. This was a **perfect** post. Tons of useful links, reminders, info, inspiration, and just the right amount of tough love. I’m still in the beginning (ie: awful) stages of a serious and scary running comeback…so I really needed all the thingz. THANK YOU!

    1. Yeah!! I need it too, in more than one way. I posted on Facebook, this is one of those things running has taught me that translates to most things in life. I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately as relates to my day job and it’s a little daunting. But I want it and I want it bad, so I have to jump in and work hard!