What do you think is needed to achieve top performances in a sport like running? Being born into a wealthy family that can afford a personal coach for their kids? Is it needed to live in a rich country where people can worry about a hobby like running? Do you need to start training seriously as a little kid? Do you need a special gift or massive talent to achieve great running feats?
Let’s just look at some stories:
In early November 1984 a little boy was born in rural Kenya as the youngest of five kids. Raised by a single mother in a country like Kenya chances are that you’ll end up working pretty early in your life to be able to contribute to your family income.
Also in this case, the boy started to sell milk after his school years to support his family. Serious running wasn’t a part in his life in the first 15 years apart from the two miles from and to school every day.
The name of this “boy” is Eliud Kipchoge and he’s considered to be the best marathon runner that ever lived crushing the world record by over a minute in 2018.
Wanna read another story?
Zach Miller was a mediocre college cross-country runner. After college he got a job at a cruise ship. Not the ideal training ground for 50 mile trail races.
Running up and down stairs and putting in as many treadmill sessions as possible together with using the fresh air for occasional long runs when the ship was docked, was his training routine.
On one of the ship breaks, Zach Miller entered his first competitive 50 miler – the JFK 50. And he won it! Confronted with the offers of sponsoring deals, he returned to finish his stint at the cruise ship and now is a semi-professional ultra trail runner and one of the most inspiring persons in trail running.
What does Eliud Kipchoge and Zach Miller and many other “ordinary” people that achieve nearly impossible things have in common?
A big dream and a ton of hard work!
So you think these are unique stories and you’re not made for ambitious goals like winning races and breaking records?
If you read or listen to interviews from top achievers in many different topics, you might notice that these people are not super human. Often they are just regular people with big dreams and the drive to work hard enough to live those dreams. This is especially true in running, because we all have the body and the abilities it needs to achieve awesome running feats.
Of course luck also plays a role but a dream to strive for and the ability to work hard for years will bring you far enough. And certainly further than you would have ever imagined.
I don’t know why people are scared to have big dreams or think they are not allowed to dream big. After all, crazy ideas are what drives humanity for ever bigger achievements. And someone has to dream and live those dreams.
Not yet sure what your big running dream is? Or do you think finishing a marathon is a dream big enough?
Let me first clarify what I mean when I talk about a running dream. This shouldn’t just be another goal you set yourself like cleaning up your kitchen or be nicer to your coworkers. These are goals quite easy to achieve.
I want to encourage you to think big here! Finishing a marathon major in the top 10%, qualify for the Olympics, win races. Yeah that kind of stuff!
As the title reveals, you shouldn’t just sit here and think about your dream for five minutes or so. Let it develop!
As for running, first do it a couple of months and see how you like it and how you are improving. When I set my running dream I already completed three half marathons. By then, I developed a passion for running, and it became something I didn’t want to go without.
Also let the dream come to you. Don’t think about it to hard. I found my running dream by accident when reading many books about the topic. When your big goal jumps at you, you won’t miss it. You’ll have sleepless nights out of pure excitement.
If you kept reading so far: great! You don’t think I’m a weirdo just because I tell you that you can win races and break records.
I strongly believe that almost every human being is born with the preconditions needed for an awesome and successful running career.
But not every goal is for every person. For some big dreams it might just be too late. For example if you reading this on your 60th birthday and start dreaming about winning an Olympic medal, I’ll tell you that this dream is most probably too late to achieve.
But what about age group records? Wanna be the fastest 70 year-old runner ever? Go for it!
Dreaming can be tricky. You might go crazy and think about something that is just nothing more than an illusion. But also don’t be overly realistic.
Yeah sure, dreaming about running a 5K in less than 30 minutes is very realistic. But it’s also very easy.
Try to find something that balances between realism and illusion. Something that isn’t easy and seems impossible now but could be done after one or the other decade of hard work.
And always consider your job and family situation as well as your health and age.
If you’re still reading, that should tell you something. Having a huge running dream is something somewhat important to you. And if so, you need to treat your hobby and your dream that way.
I don’t wanna do a whole life style and self helping seminar here. But if big running achievements are something that is important to you, you might consider changing something in your life.
It’s your life and only you decide what to do with it!
Of course it’s easy to find excuses when you don’t succeed. You can blame the people around you, you can blame your job or the economy, the society or the system.
But complaining hasn’t brought anyone anywhere!
If you haven’t already, it’s time to realize that only YOU can make the changes that are needed. It’s your life and only you should have control over it. Of course within the constraints of your priorities.
If you prioritize binge watching TV shows and hanging out at the bar having a couple of beers with your friends five times a week, then great. Do it, but be aware that living a running dream won’t be something for you.
If you want to go all in when it comes to running, you have to move it up your priority list and get rid of some of the stuff on this list that comes after running. You have to make sacrifices.
There’s a great thing about running. You can do it anytime and anywhere. So the number or sacrifices needed to have enough time for working out is much lower compared to most other things.
You still can have time for friends and family and keep your job. But you might consider working less if you can afford it. As for me, I only work as much as needed to pay my bills. Money is not the number to optimize. Time available for the things you love is!
Let’s do a little exercise. Try to remember everything you’ve done in the past two week. Write it down on a piece of paper and cross everything that is less important to you than your running dream.
Consider getting rid of all the crossed items in your list. Or at least try to limit yourself to some of those activities (watching TV is probably what comes to mind first) so you have more time for running.
Also consider going to bed early and how much sleep you really need. Remember, you could also go on a three-hour long run at 4 am!
To get more tips on how to find time for training, check out this post:
Ok now it’s getting tough. If you keep reading through this chapter: well done! Your running dream really means something to you and you’re willing to work hard for it.
The first part of this post is all about the dreaming and the huge goals you can set. But as the title of the posts states, there’s another part to it.
Now we’ll focus on what it takes to get closer and closer to fulfilling your running dream.
And that’s obviously no easy task. Otherwise everybody would do it.
This is probably the meta-theme that matters for all the topics covered below. Hard work!
You won’t get anything done unless you work hard for it over the course of many years. You will suffer, you will want to stop and throw everything away. And you will sometimes hate what you’re doing.
But as with any other aspect in life there are highs and lows. The trick is to just embrace the highs that give you enough motivation to battle through the lows.
You will face setbacks, maybe injuries and also you probably won’t achieve every single minor goal along the way to living your dream. But if you manage to stick to hard work week after week you will see constant improvement and you’ll steadily get closer to your dream.
Do you remember the sentence from above where I mentioned that the dream you choose does actually has to mean something to you? That’s very important because it’s the foundation that gives you something you’ll need along the way: Determination.
At any point you have to see your dream, and the minor goals along the way, in front of your eyes. And most important: You need to have the strong will to accomplish your goals.
You’ll see that putting in hard work constantly can be a surprisingly easy task if you have the determination to get closer to living your dream. Of course a tough speed workout will still be as tough as before. But how you perceive it will change by a lot.
Again it’s all in your head, all about your attitude. You can trick yourself to love the parts of training that you actually hate. And determination is the key to it.
Let’s have a look at the two graphics below:
I guess you see the difference because it’s pretty obvious. If you work hard and then relax for a while, your performance will stagnate or degrade even. But if you keep working hard consistently your performance will increase.
Consistency is also in running very important. Yes especially at the beginning of your running career you will see quick wins. Increased speed and endurance with only two or three runs a week.
But as you keep improving, more work is needed to keep increasing your running abilities. Also other things like cross training, strength training, stretching and other active recovering activities get more important.
The key just is to work hard constantly. As your running progresses your body is able to handle more training. But also the time you need to invest increases over time. Bear that in mind.
What has honesty to do with running? Well if you want to achieve awesome things, the answer is a lot!
First you have to be honest to your friends and family. If you’re not open about how important running and especially your running goals are to you, you can’t expect support from your loved ones.
Of course they might think, and also tell you, that you’re crazy. You just have to deal with that. And if you are honest about your ambitions, lay out a plan on how you want to accomplish your goals, I’m sure you’ll get a ton of support for your crazy dreams.
The other thing about honesty and probably even the more important part, is that you have to be brutally honest to yourself.
This is very important when it comes to alter your training plan and your goals. You might do that because you thought you can do more that you actually can.
Overestimating oneself is very common and happens to almost every runner. And that’s totally okay as long as you recognize it fast and react in a proper manner. And that’s when honesty comes into play.
Learn the signals of your body and don’t tell yourself lies like: “Ok I’ll just do this next training week and recover afterwards. It will be alright. “. Millions of runners act like this. Millions of runners get injured twice a year!
If you learn to assess your own capabilities and limits, be honest to yourself and act right, then there’s not much that can hold you back.
Ah yeah passion is a classic. You’ll read that everywhere no matter the topic or the goal you want to achieve. And that’s because it’s true.
It will be very hard and almost impossible to achieve anything if you don’t like what you are doing. But if you love something and develop a passion for it, the rest will be much easier.
Passion makes you perceive the “hard work” more as a fun thing to do than actually working hard.
Passion changes your mindset from “I have to train” to “I’m going to have fun”.
Luckily this is pretty easy with running for a lot of people. A while ago I did a survey asking people two questions:
I gave them the same set of answers for both questions because I wanted to see how it shifted from beginners to more advanced runners. Almost nobody started running out of a pure passion (kind of obvious).
But more than a third kept running mainly out of pure passion. Achieving goals is then only a matter of structuring your runs.
So you have your running dream set. And you know the fundamentals of what it takes to get closer and closer to actually living your dream.
It might be many years in the future but eventually at one point you accomplished your dream.
Or you failed! And what now?
Well for one thing for many running dreams it’s hard to say at any point that you have failed. If you don’t dream about running the Olympics or set a new world record, you can just keep working.
But if you really failed at you dream there is one thing in particular that you should do:
Look back at the time before you had your running dream. What did you think you could do back then and compare it to what you have accomplished over the years.
If you work hard towards your dream for years, I’ll promise you will achieve more than you have ever imagined. Failing at your dream might be hard at first. But in hindsight you will see many things that will make you very proud. That’s for sure.
To get you started on working on your running dream, I’ve put together a list of articles I’ve written in the past that will give you the know how you need:
If this is not enough, check out the category pages in the menu on the top of this page.
In case you don’t want to be alone in the process of achieving your running dream, subscribe to mailing list in the form below and get regular motivation and know-how directly to your inbox.
Make sure to share this post with your friends if you like it and let me know about any feedback in the comments section!