Step out of the Comfort Zone

Runners tend to be a fairly simple lot. Anyone who has run for a couple of years soon finds a rhythm to fall into, regardless of success. Despite lining up with thousands of other athletes every Sunday, the sharing of information and the willingness to try new things is pretty limited.

All of my regular running mates fall into similar brackets. There’s the fastest lot who run every day, come hell or taxes, and invariably race at every possible opportunity, whacking in at least one time trial a week.

There’s the Comrades crowd, who wake up on January the first, idly scratching their tummies while doing mileage sums in their heads and then run long, slow distance for the next few months before lapsing back into slumber. Then there’s the social lot who have run with the same group of friends for years and all run at exactly the same pace, every run, chatting up a storm but never getting any faster or slower.

And then, just occasionally, like a genetic mutation in the primordial soup that suddenly gives a fish lungs and itchy feet, someone in our group will try something new (or often have something new forced upon them by injury) and Wham! Personal Best city.

This was best illustrated by two mates of mine. Both were similar runners, never clocking faster than 5 min/km for a marathon but seldom slower than 6 min/km. Then, both had experiences that have shunted them permanently into a different league.

The one discovered he was going to be in Boston this year around the time of the marathon. Qualifying for Boston requires a sub-3:10 42k. He asked my advice as to how to take half an hour off his marathon PB in a couple of months and I idly suggested a professional coach. Our man disappeared and we stopped seeing him at time trials or on many long runs, but we noticed that he was getting faster and faster. Last week he qualified for Boston in 3:09.

Our other chap created his revolution by simply getting married. He went from a slightly ovoid, pizza-wolfing bachelor to a lean and hungry track athlete who now runs to work and back most days, and is fed nothing but home-cooked chick’s food. Salad and the like. Steamed chicken breasts. He’s faster now than he was at varsity.

I’ve quizzed these two and tried to get the essence of what changed, fully expecting to hear stories of 100-kay weeks and track sessions tough enough to make grown men weep. The answers were surprisingly simple, but not really things you were going to find out chatting to your running group on Sunday morning long runs.

The first step to changing your life seems to be eating properly. Basically, prepare as much of your own food as possible. If it comes in a packet, a can or a takeaway box, steer clear. Splash out on a one-off nutritionist visit or buy just about anything by Patrick Holford.

Step two is to understand a little neurology. There are little spots all over the body where a bit of rubbing serves to activate large muscle groups to make you stronger and more flexible. The results are astounding. Invest in a trip to a good sports physio and ask how it’s done.

And step three is rest. Yes, I know you know this one, but I bet you still time-trial every week when you’re running well. We all seem to go from nothing, to over-raced and back to nothing again. A little self-control works wonders.

So, set your sights a little higher in the new year. And do things a little differently. The only down side is that you may be so far ahead of your mates that you might have to make new ones.
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Canyon View Elementary Chick Cam

You are watching the Canyon View Elementary Chick Cam. This is a live event directly from Canyon View Elementary in Tucson, Arizona, which is part of the Catalina Foothills School District.

We’re proud to have our kinder teachers Mrs. Lansey, Mrs. Wiltbank, and Mrs. Gibson live broadcast our chicks. We are incubating 25 chicken eggs. Our expected hatch dates: April 31-May 3.

We do hope you enjoy the show. Our stream has a 30 second delay.

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