We can’t run anybody else’s race except our own.
Long-distance legend Joan Benoit Samuelson teaches her personal approach to running so you can go further in running and in life. The record-breaking, Olympic gold medal-winning runner’s career is a study in listening to your body, channeling your passion into goals, and overcoming setbacks with resilience. Winner of the very first women’s Olympic marathon, Joan Benoit Samuelson has spent her life breaking records and paving the way for female runners around the world. Now she’s teaching her personal philosophy and approach to running.
“Running in my life as a young person gave me a feeling of freedom”
Growing up in the northeastern state of Maine, one of Joan’s early passions was skiing. Plentiful nearby mountains provided many opportunities for her to hit the slopes, and, as a child, Joan even dreamed of making it to the Olympics or World Championships as a ski racer. But during her second year of high school, Joan got into a bad ski crash during a race that left her with a broken leg. The injury would change the course of her life. As soon as her cast came off, Joan turned her focus to physical rehabilitation.
It is all mental play.
Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits educational institutions that receive federal funding from sex-based discrimination. The legislation paved the way for expansions in women’s sports programs at all educational levels, from elementary school to college.
In college at North Carolina State University, Joan ran cross-country, for which she earned All-American honors, an accolade that designated her one of the top collegiate runners in the country. In 1979, Joan won the Boston Marathon, a feat she replicated four years later, setting a world record in the process.
It was during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when Joan solidified her status as one of
the greatest runners of all time. Competing for Team USA in the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon. In the years since, Joan has continued running, regularly completing marathons in under three hours and setting world records for her age group.
Everybody’s different, and every runner has to find what works best for them.
Stride and Cadence
- The length between landing foot and take-off foot
- Stride steps per minute
- 180 steps per minute
Run the way you feel
A combination of mechanics, stride, and cadence plays into a runner’s efficiency. The most efficient runners waste minimal energy.
Those training for marathons or long races in general are advised to do one long, slow distance (or“LSD”) run per week.
Resting in the days leading up to a race. Tapering doesn’t need to be a period of complete inactivity, but the intensity and distance of your runs should be scaled down and saved for your actual race day.
“The key in goal setting is to make those goals practical, and sensible, and something that gives you joy.”
(Example: “Get out and run or run-walk tomorrow.”)
(Example: “Run three times next week.”)
(Example: “Run a marathon next year.”)
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
RUNNING CAN BE HARD— there’s no denying that. Inevitably, especially during long races like a marathon, you’ll hit low points. A pain here, self-doubt there…not to mention fatigue that can tempt you to back way off your pace or even stop running altogether. These moments happen to the best
runners in the world—even Joan. It’s how you deal with the low points that can make or break you.
3 Important Runs before a marathon
- Long Runs – 20 Miles
- Intermediate runs: 12-15 miles (Speed work and interval training)
- Weekly average: 90-100 miles per week
A 2020 study in the American scientific journal PLOS ONE linked mental toughness with self-efficacy. Basically, believing in yourself, and knowing that you’ve done the training needed to succeed in your race, can do wonders for fighting through the low points.
Relatedly, according to a study published in 1987 in the American publication the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, perceived self-efficacy is tied to endogenous opioid activation, which is a scientific term for endorphins. And it’s the release of endorphins in your brain that allows you to feel a runner’s high: the blissful state where you experience decreased sensations of pain while running.
An early 2021 study published in the international, peer-reviewed journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine pointed to the power of mindfulness in cultivating mental fortitude. Researchers likened mindfulness to the “acceptance of the present experience,” and found that doing so led to improved pain tolerance and reduced feelings of fatigue among other benefits. Basically, accepting that you’re having a low point in a race instead of denying it can help you overcome it.
purposefully run in foul weather
During a race, you’ll be able to tap into the past experience of having pushed through a rainstorm, or a relentless headwind, on a training run. The feeling of being physically tough can transpose to being mentally tough and give you an “I did that, I can do this!” attitude.
TRICKS FOR GETTING OUT OF A RUNNING RUT Four ways to help you snap out of it
Run your loop in the opposite direction
Running a routine loop in the opposite direction can allow you to experience your surroundings from a new perspective and bring a newness that you may find inspiring
Change your time of day
Always run in the morning? Try a midday or evening run. Change can reinvigorate your running.
Buy or use new gear
A new gadget or even a new pair of socks can breathe new life into a stale attitude toward running
Count Your Steps
If you hit a rut mid-run, vary your pace and count your steps. For instance, pick up the pace for ten steps, then back off for ten steps, then pick up the pace for twenty steps, and back off for twenty steps. Repeat with different intervals as you like.
- Consider a running partner if you’re just starting out.
- Find a shoe that fits your specific foot type and needs
- Remember: There isn’t “right or “wrong” way to be a runner.
- Just put one foot in front of the other, and go.
- Feel like yourself out there. Run with your body and mind in a way that makes you in sync.
Specially designed shoe inserts that support the feet and improve posture.
The Swedish word for speed training. A system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied to eliminate boredom enhance psychological aspects of conditioning.
Running splits are a concept that refers to the time it takes to run a specific distance. Tracking your splits helps you achieve a consistent pace during a long-distance run.
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