Taking the seriousness out of running

Jacob Adkin, who last year won the GB trial for the World Mountain Running Championships, where he finished sixth, is the latest of our #Run1000Miles ambassadors to post their introductory blog. Despite being an elite athlete, he believes running is more about enjoyment than performance.

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I’ve often been termed a ‘serious’ runner. I used to class myself as a serious runner too, hung up on the minute details and being unreasonably cautious in the lead-up to races. Being viewed this way gives a certain feeling of pride - everyone likes that feeling of recognition of your commitment, and not just in the sport of running.

However, as I have gained more experience, I’ve come to realise that it is the ‘serious runner’ standpoint, where everything in life hangs on running and all that it entails, that eventually holds me back. It decreases the enjoyment that running should provide, and causes greater anxiety if it’s put on the back-burner, whether because of injury or other things in life.

Over the last couple of years, I have begun to appreciate running for so much more than performances or positions. This has come about from getting through my own injuries and bad patches, but most importantly from meeting and talking to so many runners, of all abilities. I have taken inspiration from every one of them and their stories, and with this have been able to look upon running with a much more positive attitude. No matter what your goals are, a more holistic approach to how running plays a part in your life and what you want to take from it is incredibly useful in moving through the ups and downs.

I have found a few things valuable in creating this outlook, and I hope that sharing them will also be helpful to you.

Don’t overstride yourself
Granted, this is quite a hard one to judge! Taking a more gradual approach to the amount you run, the intensity of the sessions you do, and the length of the events you might take part in is much more sensible than diving straight in. I have made the mistake before of following my eagerness to get fit for races by ramping training up way too fast, before my body was ready. This has lead to injury and, crucially, a negative impact mentally.

I have started using the mantra “if in doubt, always underdo”. There’s no need to risk long-term healthy and happy running for that extra run or extra hill rep today. Running within yourself at the beginning can often mean you surprise yourself later on with how well you feel!

Don’t get stuck in training plans
A training plan offers a sensible approach to getting fitter. There sometimes comes a point, however, after following a plan for a length of time, when its strict elements can limit the freedom to just enjoy going out for a run, in whatever way you feel.

I have always had a training plan there to help me prepare for various races throughout the year. What I’ve started doing differently from before, though, is to not stick religiously to it. I began to think of the schedule as a guideline, and fit it around my life and how I feel on a day-to-day basis. If you think of your plan as constantly evolving, then you feel more confident in listening to your body and reacting to it accordingly. You not only reduce the risk of injury, but are happier mentally.

Run with people
Nothing quite beats going for a long adventure in the hills with some mates. Running with others has multiple benefits, including gaining that buzz of achieving something with a friend, and being able to rant away any frustrations from your day!

Finding other runners in your area gives you extra motivation, you meet great people you would never have known otherwise, and it gives you and them the confidence to try new routes.

Find new routes
I love mapping out runs around places I’ve never been and then going to discover it - nothing can be monotonous about doing this; it’s completely new! Try to run a new route as often as you can, and you’ll find yourself smiling so much more!

Don’t just run
Running is hard on the body, and its impact can sometimes get too much. Before getting to that point, though, you can do something about it. Mix things up, try a weekly spin class, a yoga routine, or nothing sporty at all and just leaving the run behind to go out. You won’t remember a session you did in the future, but you would remember a good time with friends.

Doing something different lets your body adapt, boosts motivation, and makes for a more positive outlook on running. One of the most valuable things I’ve learnt is that if I’m doing things in life other than running that make me happy, then running itself becomes so much more enjoyable too!

Whatever your goals, thinking about a few of these will hopefully help support a memorable and happy year of running!

Jacob Adkin is sponsored by Salomon Running, Suunto, Mountain Fuel and Borders Athlete Support Programme.