By David Laney
Have you ever started a race a little too fast? I have, many times! This is a problem excited runners have faced since the first starting line was drawn in the dirt. We always pay for the unsustainable pace later on in the race, usually we just slow down to a more manageable speed. Inevitably we swear next time we will take the early miles a little more conservatively. While most of us can relate to this micro-example, sustainable running applies far more to long-term progression than a single race. Sustainability implies limited resources and an end goal. This suggests we should ask ourselves a few questions. What resources do we have or need? And what is our end goal? For most of us, resources include limited energy, limited time, family commitments, work, etc. Goals may include finishing a 50K, setting a PR, staying injury free or enjoying running for the rest of our lives.
My Dad is 70 years old and has been running about 5 miles a day for 50 years, some days a little longer, some days totally off, some days he would race a marathon or now a ½ marathon. My Dads end goal is running for the rest of his life. To do so he has had to adjust his training as he has gotten older, still enjoying it, but never pushing his mileage to the point where injury risks increase.
The first steps to becoming a sustainable runner are defining your goals, categorizing which ones are most important and taking inventory of what resources you have to get to that goal.
It is also vital to remember your resources and goals are dynamic, you can increase your resources by placing a greater priority on nutrition, sleep, recovery, and you can adjust your goals based on life changes. Setting priorities is a major component of being a sustainable runner
So, we now understand the concepts, how is this directly applicable to runners every day?
Set Goals: Set running goals but think long term, how will current goals affect future goals?
Set Priorities: Decide where running goals fit into your life, be deliberate with your decisions and stick to it.
Be You and be Realistic: Don’t compare yourself to everyone on Strava or Instagram! These mediums should inspire, entertain, or inform but not set standards.
Learn from your Failure: You will set goals that you don’t achieve, I miss more of my goals than I achieve, that's OK! Make every failure valuable by learning from it, write down what went wrong, what went great and how you will adjust next time.
Recover: Make some deposits in the bank by sleeping, eating well, avoiding overtraining, taking rest days and taking proper downtime between big races and hard efforts.