There are two universal running truths: We all hope to get faster, and we all hope to be able to run forever.
No matter what our age or ability level may be, we, as runners, share these common goals.
In order to achieve these goals, I think there are five essentials that we all need. Together, these five essentials help us to become better runners, keep us relatively injury-free, and allow us to remain on the roads for many years.
It all starts with the shoes. Today, it is easier than ever to find the right pair of shoes for you. Do your research. Never cut corners. No expense is too great. Bad shoes are like falling dominoes. Problems begin with the foot, and domino to the knee, hip, and back. Improper or excessively worn shoes will hasten the process and lead to injuries. Remember, just because the black part of the sole has not worn away doesn't mean that your shoes aren't worn. It's not that complicated. When you begin to feel every bump in the road, or every stone beneath your foot, it's time for a new pair of shoes. Keep a pair of shoes for racing purposes, and don't be afraid to rotate, wearing different shoes for different purposes, such as trail running.
2. RUNNING LOG
I'm recycling this one from a previous blog, but I firmly believe in keeping a daily record of one's running activities. Now, I'm 'old school,' so I record my workouts in a day planner. You can record your workouts online, or in any manner that suits you. Keeping a daily running log let's you know where you are, and where you are going. It reminds you of what kinds of weather conditions in which you have run, and what workouts have enabled you to succeed, as well as those that didn't. Your running log should be the Bible of your running life.
Ahh...the wonder of the GPS. Today's timepieces can do just about everything but run for you. I have chosen a minimalist approach, selecting a watch that simply gives me my time, distance, and pace, but you may want it all: the aforementioned information, plus calories burned, elevation, heart rate, blood pressure, pacing alerts, or, perhaps what you're having for dinner. No matter what, your watch is a terrific running tool.
Although we all enjoy the roads and trails, there is something very elemental and symmetrical about getting on a track. Splits can be recorded every 100 meters if you choose. There is no guesswork. Distances are exact, straightaways and turns are always in the same place, and, no matter what the workout, there is something magical about springing off the final curve and ambling toward the finish line. Track workouts force us to go faster, and that leg speed is beneficial, no matter what the race distance.
5. RELIABLE TRAINING PARTNER(S)
Some runners enjoy the peaceful solitude of a solo run, but most runners don't. In my book, "Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes," www.runningshortsbook.com., I have a chapter entitled, 'Cast of Characters,' a group of people who have shared thousands of miles on the road with me for the past 37 years. Thanks to them I became a better runner, because reliable training partners WILL make you a better runner. They show up on days when you may be tempted to stay at home. They push you to run faster. They make you laugh. They share your sorrow and your joy. Your running partners are your social club. They're your bar buddies. When you train together you are the best of friends; when you you race you become fierce competitive rivals.
Over 30 years ago, our meeting spot was "The Stump," the base of an old oak tree that had been cut down years earlier. The Stump is long gone, withered away, reduced to a grass-covered clump. The "5 minute rule" remained consistent. If we were scheduled to run, from The Stump at 4:00 p.m., be there by 4:05 or we're leaving without you.
These days I receive text messages from my running partner of over 30 years, Brian Tonitis, who still tells me he'll meet me at The Stump, and I know I can't be late by more than five minutes.
Nothing is certain in life, but if you adhere to these five running essentials, success and longevity will come your way.