I have surprised myself this summer.
This time last year I felt I had reached a plateau with running and that any further performance gains were unlikely. Whilst I wasn’t seriously considering quitting, I was starting to think, with my 30s approaching and 10 years on the running clock, that it had been fun while it lasted. Pretending to be an athlete was a laugh. Not going to get better but it doesn’t matter. At least I’m not fat. And then I made some changes.
In February I started training with a group from Birchfield and a few months later I moved club. Here are the races I have done since (yes, I am annoyed about the 5000 that broke the streak):
23rd May – 4:07.4 1500m (PB)
4th June – 9:46.09 3000mSC (PB)
20th June – 15:23.4 5000m
8th July – 15:05.6 5000m (PB)
15th July – 9:38.57 3000mSC (PB)
18th July – 4:27.3 Mile (PB)
25th July – 8:47.4 3000m (PB)
It would be foolish to attribute this improvement exclusively to a change of vest, and whilst I am under no illusions that this is just a honeymoon period, there are a few important changes that I feel have contributed.
For a start I am no longer doing my sessions on my own. I have never lacked motivation and have always been fortunate enough to have the mental toughness just to get out there, lace up the trainers and get it done. Shut up, don’t ask questions. Start the watch. As I have discovered, this stubbornness will get you a long way in running, but not always where you want to be. With a group to train with, most of whom are fitter than me, I am pushing myself harder than before in training. I am accountable to more than just myself. It is easy to convince yourself you are doing well because you are doing the training and logging the miles. What matters more though, is the quality of the training, not simply that it is happening.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I have experienced a change in mentality. Surrounded by good athletes, your aspirations rise. When people you train with are running times that you would once have considered to be beyond you, you adjust your mindset. Why not break 4 minutes for 1500? Why not get under 15 minutes for 5k? Everyone else can. I realise now that the people who run fast times are just normal people like me, not genetic freaks who I have no chance of beating. They just happen to be a bit better than me at the moment. The other facet of this change in mentality relates to competing at a higher level. Aiming to be a decent steeplechaser at Midland level and to pick up a few points for the club is not enough any more. Winning the British League is a minimum requirement; the goals of my clubmates are far loftier than mine once were.
So with this in mind I hope to keep the streak going for as long as I can manage. I will continue to have troughs as well as peaks, but a reminder that I can keep improving and hold my own at a much higher level has been welcome.