The title was too good to change, so I left it at that: “1001 Running Tips” is the advice book written by Robbie Britton, a British ultrarunner and coach who evidently loves to dispense advice. Indeed: I should say “fortunately,” because he does so in a tone that is informed but also ironic at the same time. In a community like the running one – where very often we take ourselves too seriously – knowing how to be light deserves attention. Do not be misled, however: the way Britton writes and advises does not detract from the importance of his suggestions, quite the contrary. We are accustomed to often heroic and overly motivational tones, and one of the many merits of this book is that it brings the sense of running back to the earth’s surface, without detracting from its message.
And now we start with the advice.
Joke! I haven’t even checked that it’s really 1001 but I trust it. Instead, I have chosen a few of them so that you can understand the tone and savor them slowly, because reading some of them you might think they don’t say much but if you let them rest in your head for a while you will understand their depth. And the subtle irony.
- Whatever pace you run and whatever surface you run on, if you want to call yourself a runner then that’s all that matters. Unless you’re just walking, then you’re a walker and that’s okay too.
- Training always counts, even if it’s not on Strava. Unless it should be a rest day.
- The best kit is the kit that you already own. No amount of compression socks, carbon-plated shoes or designer caps will take the place of good, consistent hard work.
- Go to your local parkrun, whatever pace you run or walk. It’s full of great people and, although it’s not a race, you can race. That makes sense, right? That makes sense, doesn’t it?
- Smile – you’ll run faster. It works for Eliud Kipchoge, but it may not be the only factor in his rather impressive marathon career.
- Longer isn’t always better. You might get more kudos for finishing a 100-miler. But reaching your true potential over a shorter distance can be just as satisfying.
- If you do experience an injury early on, then don’t be dismayed. Really, it’s ‘welcome to the club’.
- There are several fancy ways to measure your effort level, from heart rate (HR) to blood lactate measurements, but the most effective tool for any runner is their own perception, otherwise referred to as ‘rate of perceived exertion’.
- When starting out, it’s more about consistently going out for a run than attempting any fancy sessions, plans or gimmicks. Start by trying to get your running up to 30 minutes without stopping.
- Even if you do have a ‘personalised training plan’ that someone has made for you, your training and needs are very dynamic. What might be right for you one day can be a bad idea the week after, and you could even be progressing faster than the plan has allowed for.
- The biggest mistake a lot of runners make is overcooking the easy running. Professor Stephen Seiler’s research suggests that this is the greatest difference between recreational and sub-elite runners. Easy running should be the bulk of your training.
- We all think it’s the hard sessions and increased mileage that brings home the bacon (or vegan alternative), but they’re nothing without the sleep, recovery and easy running to allow the adaptations to sink in.
- Think not only of the time you are running but also the time between those runs as well.. If you run one evening and then in the morning the next day, expect to feel the run from the night before and change your run accordingly. Holding off until the evening will provide 24 hours of recovery instead of 12, for example.
- Training and nutrition are deeply linked. What’s good for Ron may not be good for you, and what happens in the race also matters: you may eat 8 gels sitting on the couch and digest them but the same thing may not happen while running a marathon. Try eating them during an interval training session, and if you can handle them, then you can handle them in competition.
- At rest stops and check-points be quick but don’t overdo it. If you need a few extra seconds to have a bite to eat or a hot drink, imagine it as time that is needed for the next running session, not time wasted.
- Trust the bathroom queue. The closer you get to the queue to use the bathroom, the more you are willing to give up. Say you have four in front of you: the first one, you think, will also read the newspaper and the others will run out of toilet paper. Instead what happens is that two give up and another just had to pee and in less than expected you are in.
- The great US ultra-runner Ann Trason: “ultra-marathons are just an eating and drinking competition with a little bit of running thrown in’. Keep that in mind throughout this section and your ultra-marathon.
- The fastest way to finish an ultra is not always about moving quickly forward. Chew on that one for a bit.
- The longer the ultra-marathon is, the less it becomes about physical fitness, and the greater role other factors play. Your fitness signifies your potential, not your performance.
- Starting more conservatively works well for a number of reasons: eating and keeping in some sort of energy balance is easier, you’re less likely to trash your legs and when everyone slows in the second half and you slow down less. Y ou’ll get the psychological boost of passing all those people who are imploding.