I’m borrowing this idea from a recent Another Mother Runner Podcast, which you can listen to here: https://anothermotherrunner.com/running-success-at-any-age/. Two AMR coaches came up with a list of ten components that they called building blocks for running success at any age. Their building blocks were: resilience, patience, strength (physical and mental), curiosity, energy, community, perspective, purpose (including how it can change), discipline, and joy. I thought I’d come up with my own list and see how mine compares to theirs. So here are my ten components for running success at any age.
First, I’d like to define “running success,” since it seems like a vague idea to me. What is running success? Is it winning races? Is it running with little to no injuries? Is it having friends to run with and just having fun? Is it losing weight and getting in shape? Is it the ability to run for decades? The idea of running success may be different for different people, depending on their age and what they want to achieve out of running. As someone who has run for decades at this point, I define running success as the ability to run without pain for as long as you would like, whether it’s a few years or 50 years. It’s being able to choose to run and having a feeling of satisfaction after running.
The first word I would choose is patience. Running takes patience, whether you’re a brand new runner or you’ve been running for many years. Everyone has peaks and valleys, highs and lows when they run and it’s perfectly normal. If you can be patient and allow for the process to happen, you’ll see you can eventually achieve your goal.
My second word for running success is grit. Grit is a word that sometimes gets over-used but I think it’s an important part of running. Grit can go by other words like determination, resilience, or having guts but I like the word grit. Running is often hard, especially if you’re a new runner or if you’re trying to get faster. If you can’t learn to not just push through the barriers but embrace the fact that running is sometimes hard, you’ll never have grit. Grit only comes after we experience hard things, when we’re able to look back and see for ourselves that we’re capable of doing more than we thought we could.
Another word I would choose is open-mindedness. You may tell yourself you’ve only ever run a 5k and there’s no way you could ever run a marathon. Or you may think you’re too old to get faster and you’re past that point in your life. Unless you’re able to keep an open mind and consider the possibility of what you may think of as a lofty goal, you will prove yourself right. Remember the Henry Ford saying, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” Of course there are limits but my point is if you want to achieve a new goal, at least keep an open mind about it.
Priority is another word I would choose for running success. Unless you make running a priority in your life, it’s not going to happen. Like everything else in life, you have to prioritize what you get done in a day and running is no different. Figure out a time or times and days of the week that would work best for you to run and put it on your calendar. It’s fine when other things come up and you’re not able to go running, just make sure that doesn’t happen all the time.
Consistency is also important for running success. This is probably one of the most important components of running if you’re training for a race. If you’re supposed to run 5 days a week per your training plan and you find yourself skipping scheduled runs every week, your running will inevitably suffer. Depending on your fitness level and age, you may be able to get by with skipping runs every week but if you have a goal to get faster or run longer than you have before, come race day, you’ll reap the consequences.
My next word is preparedness. What I’m referring to specifically is being prepared with the right apparel and gear. If you don’t have a clue what kind of running shoes would work best for you, don’t just go to a sporting goods store and choose shoes based on their color or style. Go to a running store that can measure your feet and run tests to determine what type of shoe would work best for your anatomy and will take into account things like the surface you run on and weekly mileage. The proper types of running clothes are also important, which you can also buy at a running store. No one wants to have chaffing so badly from a sports bra that you’re brought to tears when you jump in the shower after a run (I’ve personally experienced this) or to have the wrong type of shoes that actually cause pain in your Achilles and calves (I’ve also experienced this). You shouldn’t be hesitant about running because of pain caused by improper running apparel.
Awareness is hugely important for long-term running success and more specifically body awareness. I try to be hyper-aware of what’s going on with my body. Before I go for a run I’ll do a quick scan to make sure nothing feels off, then while I’m running I try to do a body scan starting at my head and working my way down to my feet to make sure everything feels like it should and I’m running loose and limber. When I get home from a run I’ll do some foam rolling and stretches and check again that everything feels good. Sometimes when I’m running I’ll have a sudden, short pain that will quickly subside but if it doesn’t, I either slow down or stop completely and walk home if necessary. I made the mistake once of pushing through the pain when my IT band was irritated and ran a half marathon when I shouldn’t have. That cost me a few months of complete time off from running after the race, when I probably could have minimized my time off if I would have backed off instead of pushing through the pain.
My eighth word for running success is mindset. Having a positive mindset goes a long way when it comes to running. One of my favorite running books is Deena Kastor’s book “Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory.” I wrote a post on her book that you can read here if you’d like (Book Review- Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and Michelle Hamilton). Deena is a huge proponent of positive mindset for running (and life in general) and her book flows with her knowledge and personal experience with this.
Community is a word that I don’t think is essential for running success but can certainly make running more fun. For most of my running life I have primarily ran by myself. When I was in my mid-20’s I joined a running group but never felt like I fit in and quit after several months. Ironically, just before the pandemic started, I decided to try a different running group, but I had to wait until social running was back again, so I’ve only been running with this group for a little over a year. Now, I love my running group and miss them when I’m not able to go. There are a couple of people from the group I would consider my friends (not just acquaintances) and one person in particular has become someone I’ve hung out with outside the running group. I also try to pop in on Fleet Feet group runs when they have them and I enjoy just meeting new people and chatting while we run and afterwards. While I still do the majority of my runs by myself, I definitely appreciate my group runs and have enjoyed meeting many runners through them.
My ninth word is flexibility, in the physical sense like being able to touch your toes (it still counts if you have to bend your knees some). I’ve only had two major running issues, shin splints and iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS, relatively early in my running history. Both were caused by my lack of awareness (see above) of my body and not picking up on the signals early enough to prevent them from becoming worse and from not being prepared (also above) with the proper shoes. I also was not stretching and foam rolling when I had those injuries. Now I foam roll and stretch after every single run. Before the pandemic I went to yoga class once a week and did some on my own during the week but honestly, I’ve dropped off since yoga classes were stopped at my gym. I know I need to do it more regularly but yoga seems to be one of those activities I just do much better in an in-person class. Still, I’ve never stopped stretching and working on my flexibility.
My final and tenth word is fluidness. What I mean by this is the ability to go with the flow when life throws us a curve ball. Things often don’t go as you think they will and sometimes you have to suddenly attend an early meeting before work, then immediately after work go straight to your kid’s soccer practice, followed by going home to make dinner for the family, after which you have to put the kids to bed. It may not be possible to run before work or during your lunch break so maybe you squeeze in your run while your kid is at practice. I found myself running laps around the swim facility many times while my daughter was at swim practice or running around the outside of the soccer field when she played soccer. You do what you can, when you can, instead of sitting around just waiting for practice to end, scrolling numbly on your phone. This also goes hand-in-hand with making running a priority (see above).
Those are my ten words for running success! What top word would you choose for running success, either one from my list or one of your own?