Enjoy the Journey to Running Fast

I was recently competing at the Canadian Track and Field Olympic Trials in Calgary and had the opportunity to visit Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Many of Canada’s great runners are honored in the Hall of Fame including the great marathoner Edouard Fabre and the fastest man in the world in ’96, Donovan Bailey.I loved all the pieces on our great Canadian runners, however, it was Silken Laumann’s story that really stood out to me. I will give you the short of her story in case you are not familiar with it.

While training on the water in Germany in preparation for an upcoming regatta, a German crew crashed directly into Laumann. Her leg was left mangled and she was 10 weeks out from the Olympics. Laumann adapted (as athletes of any sport or level often have to do) and after a week in a German hospital, she headed back to Canada to train. Nine weeks later, she limped into her rowing scull in the ’92 Olympic final and managed to pull off a bronze medal against the best in the world.

As I was revisiting her story in the Hall of Fame, I remembered a quote that my grandparents had framed for me when I retired from gymnastics at the washed up age of 15:

“It’s important to know that at the end of the day, it’s not the medals you remember. What you remember is the process…what you learn about yourself by challenging yourself, the experience you share with other people, the honesty that the training demands. Those are things nobody can take away from you.” 

At any level, the sport of running is painfully black and white. Throw our high tech gadgets in there and the results are staring you right in the face. Most of us know exactly how long our running route is and how long it should take us to run it. We can look down at our fancy watches and know how fast or slow each kilometer is. You might even cringe as you think of the noise that your watch makes alerting you that your pace is slowing!

The Negative Impacts of Running Gadgets

Although not a runner, Laumann couldn’t be more right with regards to the emphasis on process. It is important to remember the process we are going through as we are chasing the unique times we are looking to run. Setting process goals involves thinking about HOW you’re going to be successful or what actions and techniques you must take to reach your goals. Some examples of process goals include running relaxed, pushing hard through the middle of your run or bringing a positive attitude to your running. Runners can have a lot of flexibility in their process goals. It could be a long term goal such as improving your knee lift or core strength. Another runner might set a process goal concerning not once complaining about the weather during a run.

The Journey is the Destination

In contrast, runners seem to naturally set outcome or performance goals, goals that are related to placing in an event or running a certain time. Don’t lose sight of the process we go through every time we step out the door for a run. Setting a daily process goal such as running a certain stretch in your running route as fast as possible, or taking a second to take in and enjoy the river you run past everyday can be very empowering. There is much more to running than running certain times and we are much more than the times we run. The irony of it all is that when we stop and focus on the process we go through every time we run, we often get the outcome or performance that we are looking for.

About the Author: Jennifer is a student member of the Canadian Sport Psychology Association. She works one on one with athletes of all levels and is pursuing her dream career as a Performance Enhancement Consultant. Despite her 5’2” stature, she is also a closet meathead who can be found on cloud nine eating a steak post PB power clean.