The myth of ‘I can’t run fast…’


In a decade-and-a-half of running that has encompassed road, cross country and fell, and spanned 10k, marathon and ultramarathon (and everything in between), I never believed I could run very fast, that is relatively very fast for me, over short distances.

The demands of running long distances would inevitably counter my ability to master 5k and 10k, I told myself. I was a 17-something 5k runner, a 36-something 10k runner. That was my ceiling. Or rather my plateau.

Breakthrough came in September: a 17.03 5k on an undulating parkrun course. Sub-17 was suddenly realistic. The next 5k was 16.50, then 16.44. The day after the 16.44, I ran a rolling, low-key 10k on tired legs, clocking 35.14. My running ceiling had been shattered over the course of 24 hours.

Ceilings are broken in the preparation, naturally; racing fast and faster is the consequence. My autumn training comprised quick intervals and hill repeats, and tempo sessions became standard where they were once intermittent. I abandoned the long, steady Sunday run for the long, quick Sunday run at sub-three hour marathon pace. I was still clocking close to 60 miles per week. It was, admittedly, a painful business in comparison to trudging out miles for the sake of miles.

To think I thought I could not run very fast? It was a myth I – and many other runners – invent as an excuse. I had simply never tried.

I’ll try harder in 2014. And that is as good a place as any to end the blogging and running year.

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