By Milly Jane Clark
When I first started taking long distance running seriously 4 years ago, I kept a very detailed and meticulous training log. I was dedicated in keeping it up-to-date and found myself spending hours ensuring it had a complete recount of every single rep split or distance covered. I drew confidence from adding up my mileage at the end of the week and seeing ‘how much’ hard work I had done. Nonetheless, every week needed to be the same or better, which can be VERY mentally exhausting. Being new to the sport and spending most of my time hanging out towards the back of races, I was determined to work harder and spend more time at the FRONT of races. This saw the purchase of many running books from coaching guru’s – I read any ‘training tips’ I could find online and talked other more experienced runners to see what more I could possibly do. I knew I needed to be patient – long distance running takes time to adapt and reach your peak. Unfortunately, patience is not one of my strongest attributes. I wanted to have success NOW and I was often frustrated with my racing efforts.
Almost two years ago, I began training with my current coach Jimbo (James Fitzgerald). He has a unique and different approach to training, which I immediately associated with running faster. Since the change, I have re-written all my track and road PBs – yet despite this, I remained frustrated wondering why all my hard work wasn’t translating into better results that my training should reflect. After some time, I grew tired of keeping such a detailed training log and analysing every session – I realized that while I had probably run more or worked harder than everyone else, it didn’t necessary mean I was running faster. In truth, I completed every single training session Jimbo gave me, but in the back of my mind I always wondered, “is this enough? Is this what I should be doing?” “But Jack Daniels Running Formula says I need to more aerobic threshold training”. Come race day, I would line up on the start line and start thinking about the other competitors and wonder what they had done to prepare for the race compared to me. I had such a ‘busy’ mind – there was a lot of discrepancy about what I had or hadn’t done compared to the other girls. A conflicted mind translated into a conflicted race, leading to more frustration. Two months ago after a pretty average run at the Sydney:10, Jimbo rang me up and was pretty blunt in asking the question; “do you trust me?” I was quick to respond with ‘YES of course I do!’ But after we hung up, I thought about it some more. If I really did trust him with my running career, why was I so hung up on looking into other training sessions, reading endless autobiographies of world class athletes to see if they gave away any training secrets and starting every race with a mind full of doubt? Maybe deep down – I didn’t completely trust in what I was doing.
Over the past two months, I have had two solid race efforts. I travelled to Christchurch for the Half Marathon and more recently the NSW State Cross Country Championships. I was proud and happy to win both of these races, not because my times were earth shattering, but because there was something different about the way I approached the race and stood on the start lines. In the build-ups to these, I stopped worrying about a meticulous training journal. Sure I like to have a rough idea of my weekly mileage and my sessions so I can figure out my “limits” but I felt a great sense of relief to be able to ‘let go’ of my need to record everything I was doing. Jimbo and I have always had a good relationship and are able to work well together, but recently I have begun to really trust in everything he suggests I do. In all my efforts to try and find what I was ‘missing’ from my training – I don’t think I am actually missing anything physically at all. My journal reflects that. What I was missing was my complete belief in my training approach. It is one thing to go through the motions, but that will only take you so far. Over the past couple of months, I have come to believe that every run I do has a purpose, it is a building block to something bigger. I trust that my coach is the expert and any doubts I have WILL be found out come race day. With social media these days and some athletes posting their “crazy workouts” and sessions or split times – it is very easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and wondering if you are doing the ‘right’ thing. I guess the important lesson I have learned here is that ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’. I think in order to reach the next level, whatever that may be; I need to trust in the training I am doing. It takes a lot of courage to place belief in your coach, but there are probably very few athletes who have achieved greatness on their own. I actually feel a greater sense of achievement in being able to trust my training and stand on the start line with a calm and confident mind, than the times or places that result. I now enjoy the thought that I have done something “different” than everyone else and can achieve my goals without the need to over analyse everything. I hope that over the next few years I can continue to improve my fitness and racing abilities, but for the time being I will endeavour to keep focused on the things I can control without dismissing the power of trust and belief.