Losing focus in order to refocus

On the eve of the Sarens half marathon, I lay wide awake in bed knowing something was gnawing at me inside with regards to my running but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I was unsure if I was over-training, if I was mentally or physically drained but something wasn’t right. After an hour of over – analysis, it suddenly dawned on me what was wrong. Here’s what I realised:

  • I keep comparing myself to other runners I follow on social media instead of focussing on my own running journey. In my mind, everyone seems to be running faster times and improving a hell of a lot quicker than me. (Really?)
  • I’ve constantly been improving my PB, yet after 7 months with Coach Dave, I am still slower than some of the familiar faces I see at the races. I can’t keep up with runners that I used to. Why not? This bugs me.
  • I am trying to keep up with my Running Junkie Two friends and frustrated that I can’t.
  • Once again, I am caught up in that mad whirlwind they call “Two Oceans” and desperately wanting to run a good time down in Cape Town in a race I really hate.

You see, it isn’t just one thing. It is a few things that added up to one major issue: I have lost sight of my goals. I have started to look around at everything else except at my own running journey and the progress I have made since August last year.

But it’s even more than that. Lying in bed at 00h35, I knew that I wanted to run Sarens faster than 2:46 but I had no race plan. No strategy. I didn’t even know what my average pace should be. How crazy that after so many months of running, I had not worked this out in my head!

Surely no runner should go into any race so unprepared. Surely it’s the same with life? With no plan, no vision, do we really know how to reach our goals and how to measure success? set goals

I need to go back to the drawing board. I need to reset some of my goals because the goal posts have shifted. And they should shift as I improve, right?

Sarens was a great race, by the way. I ran it in 2:44.

Afraid to set a goal

At the beginning of the year, my 12 year old niece signed a contract with my sister that states that if she successfully receives good marks for her exams, she will be allowed to attend all the school disco’s. It came as no surprise recently that she was not allowed to attend the latest disco due to low marks because her goals were a tad unrealistic to begin with.Dom goals

But I do feel her pain. Setting my own running goals lately is a challenge. I’m committed to my training and at this stage, my coach has made me run each and every day to build up consistency and a good foundation. But in the back of my mind, I’ve been thinking about my goals and more specifically, the pace I would like to run.

I signed up with Coach Dave to run faster than my current 8 minutes per km. But what is my specific goal? What pace am I working towards? Can I run at 7 minutes per km? Or should I be brave and set a goal of 6 minutes per km?

You see, this frightens me because I don’t know. I have no idea what I am capable of? I’m worried that I set a goal that is unreachable and unrealistic. I set a 5km PB (personal best) time on Saturday, but then the next day ran a race at 7:49 mins/km. Huh?TTSo I went back to one of my favourite blog posts about setting goals posted by Mark Wolff. Bottom line: My goals need to be realistic. Also, to ensure that I don’t get injured and disappointed, I need to accept that reaching my goals will take time, patience and discipline.

So for now, I’m committing to 3 (attainable) goals:

  1. Don’t skip Monday, Wednesday & Saturday training sessions & give it 110% at every session. Push hard.
  2. Run every day (except Friday). As Coach Dave says: Consistency, consistency, consistency.
  3. Keep a log book & focus on learning how my body responds to training sessions. It’s like Mark points out, “Remember to aim that arrow well, don’t just look at the target but assess the wind direction and speed, stay steady in the pull and release with intended purpose.”The wall

This is all I’m committing to until I feel a bit more confident to set more specific goals.

I’ll also be chatting to my niece about her goals and suggesting she might want to re-submit a revised contract if she has any intentions of attending more disco’s. It’s the smaller goals which are achievable that matter more and build up your confidence to set higher goals than having to deal with failures which set you back.

Getting to grips with grass

Since committing to training with a running coach just over a month ago, I’m already seeing certain benefits. If I promise to pitch up at training and work hard, he pretty much takes care of everything else. In a way, it’s actually a relief.

For starters, my coach decides on how much running I do in the week. It’s such a weight off my shoulders knowing that someone else is watching my mileage. For a change, I’m not stressing over not having run really long LSDs on a Sundays. And it’s okay just to do 5kms twice a week. It’s in his hands. He has a plan.

Another thing I’m learning is what he means by consistency. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality and learning to read my body.

Ironically, my coach is making sure I slow down a bit. *Wait a minute, I’m in this to speed up aren’t I?*. At the last track session, I felt strong. I’ve noticed that I’m doing a lot more running than walking. Just as he promised, I’m building that strong base foundation first. Speed work can only start once this is in place.

Being better

I must mention though that perhaps the biggest benefit is that I’ve learnt to run on grass! For me, the finish of any race is always the worst because it always feels like after running on the road, the grass on the field slows me down and sucks me in. Quite funny that where we train, the track is grass and it’s not that bad. Not that bad at all.

The goal of Comrades

Most runners will be familiar with the question from non-runners people, “Are you running the Comrades Marathon?” It’s as if all runners just do, right? So when KK decided he was going to attempt to run his first Comrades this year, I didn’t think much of it. I mean, he runs twice a week and we usually enter half marathons on weekends. So how bad can it be? But as his training started, I soon realized there was a lot more to Comrades training than what most people think.

Mornings have been characterised by KK sneaking out of the bedroom at 4am to go and run (while I snuggle deeper under the duvet). The training has been relentless. A typical week involves running two hours on Tuesday, two hours on Thursdays, core training with a personal trainer on Mondays and Wednesdays, then 90 minutes on a Saturday followed by a marathon on Sundays. The next week, it starts again but this time with bursts of hill training and speed work.

Comrades training

His commitment to the training has impressed me the most and is where I have learned the biggest lesson. Firstly, he has a printed out & laminated training schedule of what distances to run and when lying next to his bed as well as in his drawer at work (thanks to his running partner DSM). He has followed each week religiously. By keeping the schedule in front of him at all times, his eyes are set clearly on the goal and he is doing what needs to be done to achieve that goal.

Secondly, when KK talks about the Comrades marathon, it’s always positive. His excitement oozes success. He discusses his race plan with confidence. I can see that in his mind, he envisages that finish line. He talks about the medal and going back next year.  The vision of victory is there!

I think in life, most of us want to go out and do great things, conquer those mountains, be awesome. But it takes hard work, commitment and keeping your eye on the goal. Too many people drop off eating plans; quit hobbies, give up on their dreams because it’s just too hard and too much effort required.

But in actual fact, to achieve big goals in life takes big commitment and lots of dedication. More importantly it’s to believe you can do it! To believe you can win! In my eyes, KK’s already there. He’s my champ!