My name is Jo and I am a runner

Probably time for a training update: Current situation is there is no current training.

Like a junkie who thinks one little hit here and there can’t hurt, I ran a few little extra miles here and there. A bit further and a bit faster. Some long runs. An old favourite elite marathon training session and some even longer runs.

Before I know it, I’m high on adrenalin. The wind in my hair! The miles pounding out from beneath my feet and I’m really flying! Until like the junkie I OD again and I’m back on rock bottom.

Maybe I need to set up a Runner’s Anonymous group for those who just can’t stop themselves even when one leg is falling off. My name is Jo and I’m a Runner…..

Learning from experience

I wrote this almost exactly three years ago. I was on yet another comeback with the aim to run a sub-3 marathon. Dangerously enticed by the magic of the London Marathon. Until I managed to injure myself more badly than even I had managed before. This time unable to walk, drive or even sit down for more than a week. It was a suspected stress fracture in my pelvis. And no running for three months.

Fortunately it marked a turning point. The injury coincided with my Athletics Coach qualification. I gained a new perspective on my training. For the first time I could really stand back and look at how I trained with fresh eyes.

My experiences over the years have made me a better coach and a better athlete. Possibly 30 years too late as an athlete. But better late than never.

Driven to success and destruction

There are countless motivations for running. Intrinsic and extrinsic ones. However for most runners there is one common underlying factor. It makes us feel good. This is an emotional connection to running. It’s the emotional connection that makes the rational perspective more difficult to maintain. But without the passion it’s hard to push yourself.

Running is hard work. You need to be driven to succeed. As a coach you want to work with athletes who have drive. The challenge for both athletes and coaches is how to channel this drive so that it results in success not destruction.

The faster you want to run, the harder you want to push yourself, the closer you get to the fine line between the two. The more you need to recognise the importance of the long-term goals. Not just today’s session and tomorrow’s long run.

Recognise the warning signs

As an athlete I know all too well the mindset which believes nothing is worse than being told not to run today. As a coach I encourage the athlete to see that being told you can’t run today is not as bad as being told you can’t run tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that.

Understanding how and why athletes might feel this way about their running is key. As a coach you can then reinforce the long-term goals and avoid any cautionary steps being perceived negatively by the athlete. It relies on a good, honest, open relationship between coach and athlete. Communication is the key.

As an athlete when I recognised the early warning signs of illness or injury I would ring my coach to say “Do you think I ought to run today?” Invariably his reply was “If you need to ring to ask, then the answer is probably no”. But this conversation meant we could respond to the early warning signs in a positive, constructive and shared way that gave us both, coach and athlete, a sense of control.

Nobody’s perfect

I wish I could say as a coach I am now a fully reformed character. I thought I was but I tweaked my hamstring this week. I slipped over in the dark running with my children during a lockdown, homeschool, running session. Much like that junkie, I’m blaming covid, my kids, the London Marathon, Instagram and you. Anyone but me.

In truth it’s been niggling for some time. I’ve tried to ignore it in desperation to get out of the door in lockdown. Thankfully it’s not too bad this time. It’s another reminder that even though my best competitive days are behind me I’m still a runner at heart. And I still need to think like a coach when it comes to my own running.

My name is Jo and I am a runner and a coach.

Jo is a former GB marathon runner and now fully qualified British Athletics coach. To find out more about her coaching or see what running she’s still doing you can visit her Running Jo website here or follow her on InstagramTwitter or Facebook.