I recently had a brief exchange on Twitter with @TheRunnerDad. He asked if anyone wanted to help write a book. I replied, “Sure, what are we writing about?” He said we could call it 10 steps to Being Awesome. We further decided- step #1 : Becaome a runner. Step #2: become a dad. This is logical since we are both awesome and we are both running dads. So what’s step #3?
What does it take to succeed in running? Hard work, good mileage, track sessions, mental toughness and strength training all play a role. The real trick is putting all elements together in a well-designed plan. You can pick up on tips for pace, track sessions and strength routines in countless articles in Running Times, Competitor Magazine or Runner’s World. But how do all the pieces fit together in your already busy week?
Here’s step #3: Surround Yourself with Awesome People
The good news is you probably do this already. Your friends, who run local races, show up for group runs and text you at 6:00 a.m. to make sure you’re on the way to the workout. These are your built-in advisers. Now take a next step and formalize this relationship. Ask four or five of the most knowledgeable, dedicated, successful runners you know to be your training advisory committee. Ask them to help you with your goals and hold you accountable. Send them emails about once a month asking for specific advice and letting them know how you’re doing. Most runners will be flattered that you asked. They will give you sincere insights and genuine encouragement.
How to pick your team
When I first tried this exercise, I had some people in mind. There were a few obvious choices. Then I thought through the qualities I needed to work on and which runners had those strengths. Mental toughness? Training tweaks for increasing 10K speed? Off the chart enthusiasm and that essential element of craziness? The voice of reason to moderate the crazy guy’s advice? I had check marks for all of these qualities in friends both locally and out of town. I had two runners that were younger and faster than me. Two who were close competitors to me and one who was quite a bit older than me but was a super-fast masters runner and currently terrorizing the 70+ age group runners. An All-Star team for sure.
Your advisory team will probably look much different than mine but select your advisors based on what you need to learn. Select only positive personalities and only serious athletes. Think about how they talk after a race. You want someone who can be analytical and honest but remain encouraging. Don’t pick the runner who always has a complaint about how something went wrong in the race. Watch for the runner who cheers for their friends enthusiastically and is generous with high fives. Do some Athlinks stalking and find that runner who is consistently solid and improving.
I have seen this concept succeed several times in my running career. As a kid, my running training was typically only once or twice a week. I would run occasionally with my dad on a four mile loop or go to the track with him. Then on many weekends, we ran races. Running races frequently was a wonderful experience to learn strategy, toughness, disappointment and the thrill of a PR. I also got to hang out after the race with other runners. Many of them took time to talk with me and encourage me. I was surrounded with solid, adult runners who helped motivate me and educate me. Additionally, I saw my dad arise early each morning to get in his training. I witnessed first-hand the dedication it took on a daily basis to be a runner. I was surrounded by good running influences!
In high school, my team wasn’t great. So I joined a running club with the one kid on my high school team who was a serious runner. At the running club track sessions, I was surrounded by experienced runners who were much older than I was. Soaking up their knowledge was extremely valuable.
Running in college was another giant step. I went from being the third fastest runner in the state to being the seventh fastest runner on the team. My teammates at the University of Florida made me a much better runner. Running with national class athletes everyday forces you to elevate your training and racing.
This concept holds true in life as a whole; not just running. Apply what you learn in running to become truly AWESOME.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
“Birds of a feather flock together” – old proverb
“Whoever walks (runs) with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20
“With many advisers, plans succeed, but without counsel, they fail.” – Proverbs 15:22