Where are you in the five stages of a runner ?
So all has been quiet since my sub-4 hour marathon blog last May, i have to admit i was exhausted, my 20 mile ‘Rat race Dirty Weekend’ race finished me off! I took some well earned time off my own training but continued to enjoy training others and helping ladies achieve various goals.
I started back training in September for my winter series of Half Marathon goals, broke several course personal bests and gained a new Personal Best at the fleet 10k, with a high level of stress and anxiety in my personal life though leading into Christmas I choose to reduce my individual training back and focused on my running groups, bugs, birds, bees and butterflies.
Where is this leading you ask? I am currently set to run the Wokingham Half Marathon this Sunday and it has made me reflect on where I am as a runner? There are 5 stages of running as set out by Jeff Galloway *From Galloway‘s Book on Running by Jeff Galloway (Shelter Publications, 2002):
1) The Beginner: Stage One: Making the Break
2) The Jogger: Stage Two – Entering the New World
3) The Competitor: Stage Three – When competition is the Main Driving Force
4) The Athlete – Stage Four – Being the Best you can be
5) The Runner: Stage Five – The best of all stages
I have been there through all these stages, from the nervous beginner who doesn’t believe they can run, the jogger who needs that little bit of extra motivation, the competitor where it is all about beating my personal best, finding the fastest, flatest course to run on, the Athlete whereby is all about expecting bad races and good races about pushing the extremes, finding events that you excel in and now I am ready to move into the realms of stage stage ‘A runner’
A year ago I would have never have contemplated running the Wokingham Half with no individual training, without targeting my Personal Best but today, right here, right now I WILL be running the Wokingham Half Marathon… yes I have been running, I run 5 times a week with my Elite Conditioning Ladies, have run upto 12 miles with my Lady Butterflies half marathon group, am I fit enough to run 13.1 miles? Yes of course, will I beat my personal best with no specific training for me? Unlikely.
For the FIRST time ever I am running because I can, I am running for the sheer enjoyment of being part of a local race, I am running to support my ladies whom have never run a half marathon before, if they can do it why can’t I??? I am running for the social aspect and for those whom have supported me over the last few months and will be there cheering me on Sunday, those who will be proud of me for achieving what others only dream off. I am officially into the final stage , I am ‘A runner’, I will probably run my slowest half marathon ever (1.44 seems worlds away from where I am right now) but I am ok with that, I am in a good place and I am happy with soaking up the atmosphere, cheering others through, and being part of the biggest local running event to me.
I will see you all on the other side 🙂
For those that are interested here is the full article on the five stages of a runner:
The Five Stages of a Runner – From Galloway‘s Book on Running by Jeff Galloway (Shelter Publications, 2002).
I started running when I was 13. I was immediately intoxicated with a beginner’s enthusiasm: the very special thrill of exertion, and a feeling that my body had vast capabilities. Of course, I tried to use all my youthful untrained muscle energy on that first run and then had to hobble around for a week, almost too sore to move.
But once back the soreness diminished I was back out there, running again. I was hooked. As in any skill or craft, there were various stages of involvement, competence and enjoyment. Now that I’ve been running for over 40 years, and have spent a great deal of time helping others weave running into their lives, I see a similar pattern of evolution in just about all runners.
Progress is a process in which you balance learning and maturing, as you gain knowledge of yourself. When your running goes smoothly, one stage leads logically to the next. But real growth in running occurs when you pull yourself out of the motivational slumps; learn from your mistakes, try a few new things, and suddenly you find yourself looking at running in a different way.
Only a few runners seek Olympic gold but anyone can finish every run feeling like a champion. While you may not go through all five stages, understanding the experiences that are possible along the way will help you to minimize the pitfalls and maximize the gains of your running future.
The Beginner: Stage One: Making the Break
Every beginning is precarious. There you are, perched on the edge of starting something entirely new, yet there are distractions, even criticisms that cause detours and dead ends. You want to be healthier and fit, but you may not realize how secure you’ve become in an inactive world. Each time you go out for a run you encounter a new side of yourself – one that must somehow be integrated into your daily life.
There is usually a struggle within and without. The old lifestyle is there and offers security. When the energy of “beginning” wears off, it’s harder to motivate yourself to go out for that daily run. You’ll face a lot of obstacles at first. It’s all too easy to stop when the weather turns cold, when it rains or snows, or when you feel the aches and pains of starting. You haven’t had to deal with these things before and the temptation to quit is strong.
Your running may also be threatening to your less active friends. Eventually you – the beginner – and your non-running friends work it out. The transition period, however, can be unstable and uncomfortable for both. If you falter, the old world – comfortable in many ways – is waiting for you to slip back in. If you’re lucky enough to make new friends who share similar fitness goals, you’ll probably find refuge in the “fit” world while you gain your “running security.”
Social reinforcement makes it easier to establish the fitness habit. One good approach is to find a group that meets regularly. Or you can make a pact with a friend who drags you out on bad days and vice versa. Races and fun runs are great opportunities to meet people.
At times you may not progress as fast as you expected. When we plant a seed, we not only want it to grow, we want it to become a tree by next week. We want results. When you start, you want to see physical and psychological benefits. But if you push too hard, you can tire yourself out and end up quitting in frustration.
The seed of exercise – if you don’t crush it – will survive periods of moisture and drought. Just when it seems to be drying up, it will spring to life, rejuvenated, and propels you further down the road. Don’t be discouraged, even if you’ve stopped. Tomorrow’s another day. Many beginners stop and start again 10 or 15 times before they get the habit established. Beginners who don’t put pressure on themselves seem to have an easier time staying with it. If you simply walk/jog 30-40 minutes every other day, you’ll find yourself gently swept along in a pattern of relaxation and good feeling. Your workout starts to become a special time for you. As you make progress you find within yourself the strength and security to keep going. At first you’re “just visiting” that special world when you go out for a run. But gradually you begin to change. You get used to the positive relaxed feeling. Your body starts cleaning itself up, establishing muscle tone, circulating blood and oxygen more vigorously. One day you find you’re addicted, and the beginner becomes a jogger.
The Jogger: Stage Two – Entering the New World
The jogger feels secure with running. It may be hard to start each day’s run but, unlike the beginner, you can identify with those who are addicted. You may be intimidated by the “high achievers” – competitors and marathoners – but you have begun to understand the benefits of fitness and made a significant break with the old, non-fit world. The jogger’s runs are satisfying in themselves. There is almost always a “glow” at the end of the run, a reward for the effort. If you miss a run you may feel guilty – a rare experience for the beginner. Beginners often complain that they’re bored while running, but joggers find this problem decreases and then disappears as their distances increase.
Rarely does a jogger have a plan or goal. Most run as a healthy diversion and don’t feel the need to get anything more out of it. They just get out there when they can and do what they can. Those who do feel they need a plan often think they don’t know enough to prepare one. They may pick up a few tips from a more experienced running friend or ideas from a running magazine. Unfortunately this often ends in frustration or injury because such plans are not based upon the jogger’s own individual abilities and goals, but upon someone else’s.
At first you probably needed a group or at least another person for motivation and direction. As a jogger you are a bit more independent. You’ll prefer company to running alone, but you’ll pick and choose your group with care. Most beginners seek anonymity within a group while joggers often enjoy identification with a group.
As a beginner you may have attended a few fun runs or an occasional race. Joggers, however, mark the local 10ks on their calendars. These are motivational stepping stones to keep the daily runs on track. There will often be one major race in the joggers’ schedule, like the Bay to Breakers, Peachtree Road Race or the Corporate Challenge. Although you’re not running competitively or for time improvement, a sense of competition may begin to develop. By piecing together a growing series of successful and non-threatening running experiences, you begin the transition into a fit lifestyle.
There are always conditions – injury, a long stretch of bad weather, a partner dropping out – that may stop your running and force you to start over again as a beginner. When the year’s big race is over, you may lose the motivation to keep going. A jogger will sometimes give up running completely, but usually will start again after an extended layoff.
The Competitor: Stage Three – When competition is the Main Driving Force
There is a competitive streak, sometime hidden, in all of us. Among those who continue to run for two years or more, about 30% feel some of these urges. If kept under control, the competitive push can be a great motivator, stimulating you to train well and to push yourself further than you might have otherwise. Unfortunately, many competitors give a higher priority to the times, the age group awards, and the bragging rights, losing sight of the many other benefits of running.
You become a competitor when you start to plan your running around racing goals. It all starts innocently enough. After a few races you begin to wonder how fast you might run if you really trained. Before you know it you’re caught in a compulsive drive to run faster at the expense of running enjoyment.
Not all joggers enter this stage. Many simply remain joggers, while a very few pass directly onto the stage of ‘runner’. If you do find yourself becoming obsessed with competition, however, here are some things you might expect:
Initially the competitive spirit is exciting and rewarding. You’re running faster because of increased training. You read everything you can on training, stretching, nutrition etc. and become somewhat an expert on each. There are always new training techniques to try out and you give them all a whirl.
But as the competitive drive grows, you start feeling insecure. You no longer value your daily runs for their own worth, but think only how well there prepare you for races and better times. Missing a run seems to spell doom. You can almost feel the fat being deposited on your body and see the seconds you fought hard to erase ticking back on the clock. When you hear of a workout a friend has performed before achieving a personal record, you have to match it or die trying.
Occasionally you run alone but often you’ll seek out small groups of better runners to train with and find you’re making every workout a race; you’ll push the pace to ‘victory’ or make others earn theirs. In the same way, every race becomes a challenge to a new personal record. You may begin to choose races for the ease of terrain and lack of quality competition. At some point, you’re training so hard during the week that there is no bounce in your muscles or will power to go faster in the races. Your times slow and your motivation begins to ebb.
Once the competitive spirit has taken over, you tend to lose sight of your limitations and mistake fatigue for loss of motivation. Deciding to ‘break’ through mental weakness, a warped logic emerges. If small mileage increases brought a small improvement, you’ll try large increases to gain large improvement. Although you have read many times about the need for rest, you feel that yours is a special case – you don’t need recovery time. For weeks you may feel tried all the time yet have trouble sleeping at night. Finally you push to far and break down with injury, sickness or fatigue, and you either can’t run or don’t want to run.
Once the frustration has passed (and the pounds have settled back on) you’ll probably start running again. Hopefully you’ll have learned a lesson. You’ll recycle and work your way up the ladder again. When you’ve put competition into perspective you pass into the stage of ‘athlete’ or even ‘runner’. Competitors that move directly to the enjoyment of runner category often realize that time goals, trophies, and age group awards are rewards for the ego. It’s ok to enjoy these, in their place. But don’t let the ego ruin the satisfaction and positive attitude gained from a run at any pace – even a very slow one!
The Athlete – Stage Four – Being the Best you can be
As an athlete, you find more meaning in the drive to fulfil your potential than in compulsively collecting times and trophies. You’ve finally got a handle on competition, and it’s not the only motivation. Being an athlete is a state of mind which is not bound by age, performance, or place in the running pack.
For a competitor, victory and defeat are tied to performance, Times, flat courses, ideal conditions are all important. For the athlete, victory lies in the quality of effort. When you run close to your potential on a given day, it’s a victory. You internalize competition and transcend it, knowing your limits and capabilities. You understand what’s important and what you must do to accomplish it. AS you compete, you breathe in a race, vaporize it, absorb what you need, and exhale the rest. Running becomes your own work of art and you produce the best expression you can, on that day.
Competitors search for races they can win. Athletes look for competition which can bring out the best in them, win or lose. Not intent on a higher ranking or better performance in itself, they thrive on a challenging race that is run in the best possible way – from the inside out – and they are, not incidentally, rewarded in the long run by faster times at all levels of performance. Yes, athletes are scattered throughout the spectrum of runners, including the back of the pack. They often choose smaller races over the big media events because they don’t want to feel lost in the sea of humanity.
Gradual progress is more important to the athlete than a fast time in a given race. You now have an internal concept of what you can do. When progress in slow or is blocked you revise. With every run, your internal training computer is fed with good data that processes several possibilities. You know when to disregards a bad run and not get depressed.
Though you once may have been a competitor you read everything and tried most of it, as an athlete you now only read what a practical value. When problems arise you look for literature on subject by authors you trust. You’re reading ties into an overall plan.
Planning is important. Although you’re flexible, you plot goals and races 6-9 in advance. The athlete is capable of continuous re-evaluation, and may change goals from week to week. Plans are not always written.
Great athletes at any level realize that ‘success’ is in the eye of performer. Some athletes reach a level of achievement or satisfaction and retire from competition, a few even quit running entirely. Most choose a reduced level of racing. Many continue to grow and move into the final and most rewarding stage, the runner.
The Runner: Stage Five – The best of all stages
The final stage of the running journey blends the best elements of all the previous stages. The runner balances the elements of fitness, competition, training and social life and blends running with the rest of his or her life. There may be times when the runner reverts to earlier stages – mature people in any field have this problem – but these are only passing bouts that are assimilated into the overall harmony. The runner is a happy person.
As a runner, the primary focus of your life is not running. It may be family, friends, work, and is often a blend of many things, running is now a natural part of your daily routine. When you miss a run you are not in agony. In fact, you don’t miss many days over the span of a year, because you just feel better during and after every run.
You know the positive effects of exercise, but that alone doesn’t get you out on the roads. You get so much satisfaction from the experience itself that running becomes a necessary and stable part of your active lifestyle.
As a runner, you’ll enjoy the companionship of running with other. You appreciate the peace and inner reflection provided by the solitary run more than you did in the earlier stages.
As a runner you experience the enjoyment of each stage and retain the best of each of them. You can relive the beginner’s excitement in discovery, appreciate the jogger’s balance of fitness and enthusiasm, share the competitor’s ambition, and internalize the athlete’s quest. Having consolidated and balanced all these stages, you enjoy the creative and positive aspects of each and let them enrich your running life.