It's very interesting to see how my running has changed now that I'm in my second year. I had a great first year - I even managed to drag myself through a marathon - and really made great progress. I went from thinking it would be impossible to run five minute intervals to running for more than an hour without stopping. I can see now that those runs were still really hard (some days they are still really hard). This is partly because my body hadn't had the time to build the muscles and stamina I needed to support my running body. But it's also because I had a notion about the pace I should be able to maintain and always started there, noticeably slowing as the run went on. In a word: I went out too fast for my fitness level. I'm still guilty of doing that, but I am getting better. I'm learning to s-l-o-w down. I'm using the first mile to warm up. I'm following advice on training paces (McMillan Running has pace calculators based on your current ability) so that I can improve my speed.
With the New Year in mind, I thought I'd put together a quick list of things I was supposed to do, but didn't do, and wish I had done last year.
Most Runs Should be at an Easy Effort
I read this again and again in every single book about running. Every single one. I ignored it. Well, I didn't ignore it, but I believed my 10 minute/mile pace was slow enough already. I convinced myself that I had faster paces in me to justify the practice.
The problem with running too hard when the run is supposed to be easy is that you miss out on active recovery and lose the benefits accrued by an easy run. It makes the next run harder (because you've worked too hard) and limits the mileage you can do on any given week. The other most important cost of doing this is that you miss out on the training benefits you can only achieve through the slower, easy pace.
Cross-Training Prevents Injuries
Again, this is everywhere. The idea is that by doing other activities you build strength in counterposing muscle groups and reduce the likelihood of injury. I had two reasons for ignoring this advice: first, I never felt like I had time to run as much as I'd have liked, so I didn't want to squeeze in another activity. Second, I really don't like exercise. Although I was really active as a kid, the only activity I've ever done with regularity as an adult (and that was in my 20s) was yoga. And I haven't done that in years.
Now, because of our car situation, I've been riding my bike a lot. I can feel increased strength in my quads. I plan to introduce regular core and yoga. Like this week. Simply running just doesn't do enough to build the upper body (which is needed to support injury-free running.
Judgment and Evaluation are Different Things
I've been tracking pace and mileage religiously since the beginning using first my phone and now my Garmin. I adore the Garmin. I hate to run without it. However, last year I continuously looked at my current pace so that I wouldn't go too slow. I felt discouraged if my pace was slow. I got really upset if I every run was not at my anticipated (hoped for) marathon pace. Basically, I treated every run as a measuring stick.
What I've realized recently is very basic. You can track your run, but choose NOT to display this data. In combination with my first point, I find that it's much more enjoyable to run based on perceived effort and then analyze the data later. By uploading once a week, I have enough distance from any given run and am then looking at broader patterns.
Goals Should be in Reach
The biggest mistake I made in running last year was to believe that I could achieve a faster pace through sheer will. If I missed my time goals I felt like a failure. I've since read that it can take up to five years to really see your capabilities as a runner. It takes a long time for your body to adjust to running. It takes patience and consistency, but improvement does happen. (Even when it seems like you aren't getting any better.)
This is a work in progress. Patience is difficult for me, and the temptation to feel I haven't worked hard enough to get where I want to be is a tempting default, even though it threatens my interest in running altogether sometimes.