“You don’t seem to get injured very often. What’s the trick?”

This is what a mate of mine said to me the other day, and yes I have been lucky in that since I started running seriously at the end of 2013, I have not broken any bones or had any serious injuries. Most time I’ve had off is probably no more than a week or two. I hope to not jinx that with this article and ‘knock on wood’ for future years, but it got me thinking about the way we approach running and what the common elements are that characterise those with longevity.

It is of course important to realise that everyone responds to training differently and we are all blessed with different genetic make ups. Plus, I also think it is important to never stop learning. I treat my running journey as one huge experiment and I have spoken and listened to many people, read many articles and treated everything with what I think is a healthy skepticism. 

There are of course so many variables and ideas with regards to what people should do with running, and much of it depends on your goals. For me, and many others I imagine, we would like to have a sustainable relationship with running, perhaps getting faster over certain distances and events. The biggest element for me in all of this is consistency – and I mean this in the broadest possible sense.

I do realise that many people may not prioritise running like me (or can afford to do so for any number of reasons). I also acknowledge that many people may be looking for a silver bullet, rather than acknowledging the inconvenient truth that is in plain sight – Consistency gets you results. It may not sound the most glamourous or the quickest route to success, but at the end of the day there is a lot to be said for consistency and staying on the same, dull path. That is not to say there will not be some interesting bumps and diversions along the way, but generally running seems to favour those who can find a manageable route and stick to it for long uninterrupted periods of time.

To break down this metaphor I simply mean that you can get quite good at running just by doing the simple things well and having that consistency, which are quite simply, nutrition, sleep and steady amounts of volume when it comes to training. These all need to be kept constant and regular, and of course there will exceptions, but if you keep these things regular then you should not only improve but also find it easier to maintain the routine.

There are of course times to change the stimulus but this should be done within reason and with the right amount of timing, for example if you have been logging lots of steady kilometers and have built a good base, then perhaps begin to focus on speed work with less volume. These ideas are all relative of course, but the point is to never jump into anything too quickly, or to use the metaphor do not suddenly change paths, rather make gradual changes. To be brutally honest, it really is largely about doing just about the same thing, day in day out month after month year after year, running is definitely a sport that rewards patience and experience.

I look at my own routine and I have been running at just about the same time of day, eating similar foods, etc for the better part of the last couple years and yes I admit I certainly prioritise my running. It is important to realise that we all prioritise things differently  and not everyone wants to or can train consistently. The trick is realising this and adjusting our expectations accordingly, while at the same time not being too hard on yourself.

We all run for different reasons (although I am still not exactly sure why I run, I can never seem to answer this question sufficiently) and at the end of the day it should be fun first and foremost. However having said this, for those wanting to go that bit beyond running for enjoyment, I think there is a lot to be said for the good old fashioned grind when it comes to training. So if you’re not quite hitting your goals, ask yourself, ‘Have I keen consistent in my approach to running?’ Look at your running over a period of time. Look at your diet. Look at how much sleep you’re getting and when. The answers are all there.

I now look forward to probably my millionth 5am coffee and sunrise run around mount Ainslie.

David Longo
David is a Canberra-based ultra runner who has also lived in Hong Kong. He races regularly both on the HK and Australian ultra scene.

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