I like the start of January. I like the clarity, the clean division between one measure of time and the next, the start of a something. I don’t believe in a “new you” (save me, please, from trite lifestyle features and wellness posts), but I do believe in the blank page of a diary, the rush of a well-made plan, the second face of Janus looking forward at possibility, not back at mistakes.
And a new year means a new race season, a chance to get stuck into your potential. These post-Christmas sluggish hinterland days are the perfect time to dream about what could be. What do you want? To run under the midnight sun in Tromsø? To hike through lush jungle on a multi-day ultra? To smash a PB? To run somewhere that isn’t London, away from the tarmac and the crowds? Now’s the time to research and to plan, to book flights and races, and harness the motivation that seems to rush in on the new year wind.
For me, I’m setting myself a simple (but not exactly easy) goal. A big marathon PB, in 16 weeks’ time. Right now, it seems impossible, but it’s all about the plan. Sitting down, drawing up the spreadsheet or opening the new diary and setting it all out, week by week, day by day.
I’ve only trained for 3 marathons so far, but the most valuable thing I’ve learned is know your weaknesses. There is no point building your week around 6AM runs if you won’t be able to force yourself out of bed on a dark winter morning. This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing the effect that the rose-tinted glasses of New Year’s resolutions can have on you. Suddenly, you think you’re going to be the person who says no to drinks on Friday and will go to the gym instead. You’re going to get up at the crack of dawn at the weekend, have a hearty breakfast and churn out 15 miles, even though you usually only drink coffee before 10AM, and hate long runs. Know thyself. If you’re going to write a training plan, build it around what you can and will do.
What I would suggest, is writing a list of your strengths and weaknesses, and then devising a plan that both plays to your strengths and focuses on your weaknesses. For example; you hate hills, and you know you have to do more of them. You like running in groups. So join a run club that does hills sessions. (Subtle push for something, there.) Again, sounds totally obvious, but most of us are very good at ignoring the things we know we should be doing. And writing it down makes it less — ignorable.
Here, I’ll give it a go:
Sticking to a plan
Grey winter mornings (the worst thing about spring marathon training?)
Taking the list above, I know I’ve got to give myself a schedule to stick to, especially for long runs, which are better done with the motivation of a group – or they’ll just be too miserable. Ditto tempo and even speed sessions; I’m not going to push myself as hard as I should if I’m running alone. When it comes to strength and form, I should still include hills and drills, but also focus on getting some gym time in the schedule (which I usually neglect).
You might run much better by yourself; you may hate the strict structure of a day-by-day plan; you might know that you need to focus on hills and improving your form. Whatever it is, everyone is different and there’s no point copying someone else wholesale.
Whatever your goals this year, good luck, and enjoy the journey!