I went running at Lake Tahoe this morning, not far from where I ran my first ultramarathon. It got me thinking about my first few years as a runner.
For my first few years of running, I made a very concerted effort not to read anything about running. I didn’t know what Runner’s World was, or that there was at least one magazine completely dedicated to trail running. I didn’t have any close friends who were runners. I read nothing on the Internet about tapering, nutrition, shoes, gear, or anything else.
I didn’t want to give myself any excuses for failure.
At the end of the day, the only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. There are no shortcuts. The only way to improve is to put in extreme amounts of hours. Some people have genetic predispositions towards certain skills, but that doesn’t mean they don’t practice.
Running, to me, is putting one foot in front of the other, and doing that over and over. Everything else is secondary.
If you’re making excuses for not putting one foot in front of the other, you’re not getting better at running.
Sports writing provides excuses for failure. Did you not finish that race? Don’t worry about it – your pre-race meal probably wasn’t the right balance of carbohydrates and protein. Oh, it was? What did you eat the night before? Those extra vegetables could have been the problem. What shoes are you wearing? Could be the wrong ones for the terrain, or for your feet, or for your stride. You may have needed more expensive clothing. Maybe you ran too many miles, or too few, to train for this race.
Tips for improvement can just as easily be excuses for failure. Obviously, this isn’t always the case. I’m definitely not advocating for not educating yourself about running. As with almost everything, more knowledge is better.
That being said, don’t give yourself excuses. There is no “secret sauce” for running. There’s only starting and finishing.
You win if you finish.