What Are You Willing to Do to Run Faster?

English: Wall Street sign on Wall Street
Some investments are made on the street while others are made on the road, track and treadmill! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chances are if you’re reading this, then you want to run faster. Whether you want to shave thirty seconds or thirty minutes off your PR, you probably often wonder what you need to do to make it happen. But have you ever thought of it this way:

What are you willing to do to run faster?

How many miles a week are you willing to run? How much time are you willing to invest? How much money are you willing to spend? How much discomfort are you willing to endure?

What’s achieving your running dream worth to you? 

Last week I told you how I’m dreaming big and not going to be embarrassed about it any more. I’m going to aim high and pursue the Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifying Standard.  really want to achieve this goal. I will run every day. I will sometimes run twice a day. I will teeter on the edge of injury and risk bonking on training runs and in races. I’ll deprive myself of ice cream and more or less tee-total for years. And yes, I’ll risk being the freak running lady at the PTA meetings (heck, I’m already there!) All of this stuff works for me and might seem crazy to you.

Ask any elite or subelite runner and they’ll tell you it takes a lot of work and a lot of discomfort to squeeze every last second out of their PRs. I believe this is true for all of us: to be the best runners we can be we often need to run every day, sometimes twice a day and we have to be willing to push ourselves through pain and discomfort, both physical and mental. These are things that most experts agree will help just about anyone reach his or her potential. But must you do those things?

No! Everyone’s got a tipping point: the point in which the sacrifices necessary to get faster just aren’t worth it. No one has to do any of the things that will make them faster, only if the results of running faster are worth it to her. My tipping point is different from yours and that lady’s over there and Kara Goucher‘s. We all have our limits. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to how much you invest in your running. We can all dream big, do whatever we can within those limits to achieve our goals and be happy for ourselves and each other. What’s right for me may not be right for you and vice versa. And, heck yeah, that’s ok!

Ariana has a higher tipping point than me and even if mine was as high I’m not sure I could both make the OTQ A Standard or rock out those bunz! (photocredit: arianahilborn.com)

While running every day, doing doubles, ass-early treadmill runs, stroller runs etc. are training elements I’m willing to use to get faster, there are only so many miles I can fit in a week before I reach my limit. I haven’t met it yet, but I’ll certainly know it when I see it (more on that in an upcoming post). You, on the other hand, might only be willing to run 5 days a week. That’s fine! You’d probably be faster if you ran 7, but if the benefits of running every day aren’t worth the sacrifice of that time to you then stick with 5. I’m sure I’d be faster if I pulled an Ariana Hilborn and structured my life more around my running, but that’s beyond what I’m willing to do. Focusing on running full-time and relocating to train with a new team and coaches were things she was willing to do. Good for her! Bad for me!

I think it’s important to understand our limits so we can train optimally. Knowing our limits helps us to see when we’re making excuses for investing less than we want into our running goals and also to push to the point at which we really have nothing left that we’re willing to invest. I think it can also relieve frustration to know that, in all likelihood, that lady that’s always taking first in your age-group is not necessarily a better runner than you, but rather she probably has more she’s willing to invest. And then when things change in life – when we suddenly come into more time or money, for example – then we can reevaluate and better know how to up the ante and invest that time or money into achieving those goals.


So, tell me, what are and aren’t you willing to do to get faster?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I meant to comment on your last post — but better late than never, right?

    I was apprehensive about telling people I was attempting the trials standard as well. First I told people close to me, then I started telling strangers. Finally I started telling friends and acquaintances and co-workers. I was so overwhelmed by the support I got from everyone. No one acted as if I were crazy or “braggy” or anything other than a woman with a goal and an ambitious plan to achieve it. I even had clients keep up with my progress, even after they were no longer my clients. And when I failed to hit the standard, the support didn’t wane. Missing the standard was one of the most meaningful experiences in my life because of that.

    Back on today’s topic…one of the sacrifices I will not make is my sleep. I know I need a solid 8.5h in bed to feel rested enough to do my job and run.

  2. I’m really focused on running a sub 2:50 marathon in the future (distant future, but still at some point). So right now I’m willing to do whatever it takes time and training wise to make that happen.

  3. I’m willing to slow down a little bit actually and not put a time limit on how the long the process should take. I’m also willing to run crappy races and not be afraid of failing because any effort made will be a good effort for future fitness.

  4. I’m willing sticking with my rehab program, even though it’s now clear it’s going to be much longer than originally forecast. One thing I’m NOT willing to do, though, is start my day in the four o’clock hour; there has to be at least a 5 on the front end of the clock!

    1. I’ve always been the same about the clock. I think if I could find a buddy who would meet me super-duper early I could start doing my tempos or other longer weekday runs that early. Any takers?! 🙂

      Oh, and how is the injury going? What exactly is the problem? Are you rehabbing your back or the calf?

  5. First, congrats! This is amazing, and I can’t wait to read about it.

    Since I don’t have non-school and work responsbilities (or not many of them, at least), running is my other priority. I’m definitely not at the level of competitive runners yet, but I’m willing to sacrifice a lot to get my running goals. I already sacrifice Friday nights (gotta sleep to I’m ready for my Saturday AM long run), and most weeknight activities (so I can run the next morning). If I was healthy enought to run 7 days a week I would – but right now, I’m focusing on fitting in two-a-days with one rest day a week.

    1. You think doubles are less tough on your body than running 7 days? When I run 7 days I try to make one day a week contain a short (4 or 5 miles) easy run and that’s it and then to make up the mileage I double up on my 2 mid-week hard days. I’m not sure my body needs that, but my mind really appreciates only having to find 40 minutes to run one day a week!

  6. What a great goal! You are going to have so much fun getting to the trials!

    I think personally I am always surprised by what I am willing to do to get faster. My limits change with each cycle. I used to think people who ran more than four days a week were crazy. I now run on a 10 day cycle. I used to think running more than 40 miles a week was an invitation for an injury. I now run 60-70 miles per week happily. I think there aren’t any hard lines on what I’m willing to do as long as I slowly walk my body forward towards my expectations.

    I’m not near the point where I can say the trials a reasonable goal. But I hope that I can push my limits and commit and someday get to where you are. Thanks for putting yourself out there!

  7. Good luck! You will rock it!

    This is an area where I struggle, and I’m honestly still figuring out what works for me. My last marathon cycle was the highest mileage since my collegiate running days. Now I’m adding regular cross training into the mix. We don’t have kids, but I still have to factor in quality family time, volunteering, advancing my career… not to mention general social activities and other outdoorsy stuff! I’m working it out as I go. Like you, I feel like I will know it when I see it.

    I’m willing to shelf some of the crazier outdoorsy stuff. I would love to train for a Rim to Rim hike of the Grand Canyon, but I don’t think that’s possible while marathon training.