It’s around this time of year that everyone starts writing their 2020 lists, posting their #best9 on Instagram and setting resolutions.
Whilst I only started running in September 2020 and was curtailed by injury just 2 months later, I’ve learnt three really valuable lessons that I hope you will find helpful either in running or elsewhere in life.
Routine, Routine, Routine
In the past I would have said I didn’t like planning ahead, that I’m not very organised and that I don’t place much stock in routine. 2020 was the year that changed. In a time of unprecedented uncertainty, the value of regular, consistent actions and experiences has become clear to me.
Healthy routines give stability, focus and something positive to centre on regardless of what else is going on in life. This has been particularly important for me amid the constant low level stress and anxiety caused by COVID.
This is was especially true as I ventured into running. Knowing how unfit I was, I needed a training plan to build myself up, develop consistency and give me a solid structure with goals to aim for. Couch to 5K proved to be the perfect tool for the job.
I know it isn’t a particularly ground-breaking route into running, but the fact that so many people find their legs in the sport through C25K indicates what an effective programme it is.
After a little trial and error I ended up getting into the routine of running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and taking two rest days on the weekend. Logging these runs on the Momentum app also added a visual element to the sense of building an effective running routine and increased my motivation to get out there for each and every run.
This consistency of approach allowed me to make steady and measurable progress whilst beginning to learn about myself as a runner.
Look to Learn
As I wrote about in November, when I started running I assumed it was as simple as lacing up my shoes, getting out the door and putting on foot in front of the other. This is what I had done with my brief flirtations with the sport in the past and it had got me through a couple of 10k races (slowly!).
Very quickly I realised this wasn’t the case, and that running is a skill, with technique to be learned just like any other sport.
So I did some research, began diving into blogs and YouTube videos, engaging with the running community on socials and listening to podcasts with athletes and coaches.
Meanwhile using Strava allowed me to see how my pace was wildly inconstant at the start of a run and how tailed off dramatically towards the end of each run
Between these two I was able to identify a couple of key areas to begin working on my technique, specifically keeping my head up and keeping to a steady pace.
This focus on learning and technique began to pay dividends as I saw my skills start to develop. I was actually enjoying myself as the runs became less of a slog to get through and more enjoyable as I made progress in speed, pacing, stamina and technique.
I am still a complete novice, but I believe starting off with the positive intention to learn and master a skill is key to success in that area- running is no different.
Community is Key
2020 has been hard. We’ve spent much of the year either locked down or under restrictions. We’ve been limited in who we can see and when we can see them. Social interaction has been severely reduced and at times I’ve felt lonely in a way I never have before.
The lesson I have learned from that is the value of community and how it’s worth making the effort to find it. Basically, I didn’t know what I had until it was gone.
Whilst online community is not the same as seeing people face-to-face, in this year of social isolation connecting with new running buddies by starting this blog and creating a running Twitter account has been so valuable.
It’s been amazing to link with other runners, see their highs and lows, achievements and setbacks. I’ve been able to get advice and be inspired. It helped me to stay motivated and engaged with my running aspirations during two periods of injury.
Whilst I would love to have taken part in ParkRun, maybe even joined a running club or taken part in an event, that just hasn’t been possible, so online community is as close as I’m going to get, and I’m grateful for it.
Hopefully 2021 will bring the opportunity to build on my virtual connections and create some in-person running friendships.
What have been your experiences in 2020? What are you keen to take with you into 2021 and what will you be leaving behind?