Instead of the usual get fitter, get faster, get thinner new year posts i asked Ronnie Staton (my coach & mentor) to write something a bit different. He recently qualified with a diploma in cognitive behavioral therapy. Enjoy and best wishes for 2021.
"The runner has never had a greater opportunity to reconnect with his/herself and the art of running.
I’ve witnessed an irony in many of the runners I coach over 2020, they lost their events but went on to have one of the best running years of their life. How so? First came the disheartened feeling of goals and plans foiled but it was soon followed by a pause.
The runner with no short-term goal to charge at did something increasingly rare, they focussed on the present. A gratitude heightened as running formed a cornerstone for physical, mental and emotional wellbeing during the pandemic. Runners were given the chance to forget the means to an end focus, which training can encourage and instead like a child playing, the means was the end. As a coach I believe it possible to feel great joy in our running, yet still have structure and progression, but I’m the first to admit it is a difficult balance to perfect.
As we crash into 2021 with many circumstances out of our control I firmly believe it’s time to look inward to the things we can control. There’s a brilliant little book by William Pullen ‘Run For Your Life’ that combines the age-old art of mindfulness with running as a tool for dealing with or mental obstacles. I don’t think there has ever been a better time to introduce such practice to our running.
Many runners strive for better performance which is often signalled by a finish time or completion of an event and it’s my job to support such results. But it is the results I support, not so much the striving. I’ve witnessed over and over that when a runner becomes fully engaged in the process of running for the love of the act, the routine, the part it plays in their life - the results follow. There is less strive, yet more consistency and consequently better results. I’m not saying sometimes a little discipline isn’t needed or that it always comes easy, just that overall things flow much better when we get off our own back.
So, I would encourage a kinder, more self-compassionate set of running goals for 2021 and see where we end up. Perhaps a focus on technique, enjoyment, creativity or simply an appreciation of your local area. Events will eventually return. I hold hope we can return not just as better runners, but as more joyous runners. The ‘Harrier' ethos says it all for me - Run Free!"