Of all the qualities running has that makes it appealing- and the list is cast- perhaps the best part about it is that it’s never static.
It does not matter how bad your last run was, how epic you felt after finishing the previous run, what monstrous challenge lies ahead of you in a week’s time…none of that matters.
What matters is now. The present. The very next run you embark on.
Maintaining your focus on the run directly in front of you is one of the most important things you must do when running. What you did yesterday and what you will do tomorrow doesn’t really matter. You’ve been there, will do that, but setting there and that aside is fundamental if you want to meet your overall goals.
Since becoming a runner in 2008, I quickly picked up on this notion of focusing on the present. To me, the most important run of my list is my next run. Whenever I finish a run, I take some time to reflect on the run, and then start thinking about the next run. By the time that next run is before me, it’s become the most important run. In many ways, it has to be that way. After all, if I’m not going to take my next run seriously, then why bother putting my running shoes on and stepping outside?
Of course, there needs to be some sort of forward thinking. There needs to be long-term goals and your next run has to fit in there somewhere. If you are training for a marathon, a half-marathon, trying to set a 5k PR or just build up your weekly mileage, your next run should fit in somehow.
Your plans could be rigid (Monday off, Tuesday 5 miles easy, Wednesday 7u mile tempo run…) or flexible (Monday 4ish, Tuesday-Thursday three runs for total of 18 miles, Friday 3ish, Saturday off, Sunday 12) or somewhere in between, but a plan is always beneficial.
Having a plan alleviates pressure and allows you to focus on your upcoming run. That way, when the next run comes up, you know what you are trying to accomplish. Are you running three recovery miles? Do you have 20 minutes of intervals coming up? How fast do you need to get to during your tempo run?
Focusing on your next run will help you achieve your overall goals without making them seem too overwhelming, and really, it is the only way to get to where you are going without stressing too much about the big picture. It may be daunting, to think about 26.2 miles when you’ve only reached 12 in your training plan, or a 10-mile run might seem inpossible if you’ve never done the distance before. But none of those future runs matter. If you stick to your training plan, you will reach 26.2 miles, or 10 miles, or whatever other goal you have targeted. There is no need to fret about those runs now because they do not matter in the present.
While pondering the time, distance, course and everything else that goes into my pre-run thoughts, one of the things I’ve developed that has helped me tremendously is to take a moment to put myself in the right frame of mind. Before each run and workout, I say the following to myself:
Yesterday’s over. Can’t do anything about it.
Tomorrow’s too far away.
It’s all about today. It’s all about this moment. It’s all about right now.
Are you willing to give yourself everything you have for this moment? For right now?
I constantly go back to this during my runs, particularly my tough ones, and it helps me sort myself out. Running is fun and rewarding and all that, but sometimes it’s cruel, unyielding and downright difficult, and the natural instinct is to ease up, to stop feeling uncomfortable. But keeping your focus is important to help break through these barriers, and if you are thinking about yesterday’s run or what you have tomorrow, that focus could slip away and the run won’t be as rewarding, fulfilling or positive as it could have been.
So, no matter what you’ve got coming up, and no matter how fantastic or mediocre your recent runs have been, keep the focus on your next run. Treat it with the utmost importance and you’ll get to where you want to go.