A couple of years ago I received a message from a university friend. Her husband had recently started running, and she wondered whether he could contact me for tips and advice. That was how I was introduced to Vince. He was training to run a marathon. His natural pace was good, reflected by his times over shorter distances, so his major target was to build up his training mileage in order to sustain him through a marathon.
Vince seemed to be unlucky. I pointed out to him that I run in any weather, since if it is raining on race day you will be out there anyway, and you wouldn’t want it to be your first time running in wet clothes and shoes. Vince went out and did just that the next time it was raining at the time he had a run planned. The result was that he came down sick.
But then Vince started to face much worse luck in the form of injury and illness. After eventually seeing a doctor about a numbness he was experiencing in one of his feet he found out that there was nerve damage that could only be repaired through surgery. Vince was back out on the road just a week after surgery, against the doctor’s advice. I will point out that I definitely do not recommend ignoring expert advice, and I have said as much to Vince, but he is full of grit and determination. However, he unfortunately was unable to complete the marathon he had planned.
He continued his training towards a road marathon the following year. He ran marathon distances in training and completed a difficult trail marathon. But he also made sure to keep the doctor in business, adding tonsillitis, sinusitis and pleurisy to his list of ailments. When his target marathon came around Vince was clearly undertrained. We had a discussion around target times. He could either maintain his original target and know that if things didn’t go well he would likely have a bad day, or he could adjust his target to a slower time. He decided to keep his original target, and unfortunately had a very tough day.
But as I have mentioned Vince has grit and determination. His eventual target was to qualify for Boston (he might have come up with that idea thanks to my own involvement in his running), so a tough day was definitely not enough to stop him. He continued to run and train hard, ran some good marathons and some bad ones.
Then he signed up to run the Tokyo Marathon. But when he investigated some knee pain he was told that once again it would require surgery. Just 6 weeks after his knee surgery Vince crossed the line in Tokyo.
In June Vince had his gallbladder removed, and it is speculated that it might have been the cause for all his other illnesses. Vince was then free to return to training the only way I have seen him approach it. In a story of success Vince’s relentless pursuit of his goal can be described as featuring grit and determination. In a story of failure it possibly would be called stubborn and hard-headed. But luckily this story fits into the former category.
Finally managing to train for a marathon unhampered by injury Vince was able to train with consistency leading up to the Melbourne Marathon last month. The result was a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon.
I am thrilled for Vince about his result. But the reason I am telling this story is to highlight what I believe to be the single most important key to success in running: consistency. We can talk about mental attributes of a runner such as grit and determination, or physical attributes such as speed and efficiency. I believe the biggest contributor to successful running is consistency. Vince kept running and pushing himself due to his grit and determination but he never would have reached his goal if he hadn’t been able to train with consistency for the first time since he started running.
If you are an uninjured runner with a target in mind then you have no excuse. Get out there and run, as often as possible.