It doesn’t happen overnight. Some have natural abilities, and may be able to run remarkably good times with little training, but even those individuals must work if they want to get faster. You put into it, what you want to get out of it.
For me, I am fortunate. I believe I was born with some natural talent. I was not the slowest runner on a team. I ran decent times before I ever decided running was the sport I committed to. But, I was far from the Olympians talent that I ran with when I was in college (yes, I ran with athletes that have since ran at the Olympics). I did not have that pure, or raw of talent. Heck, when I was running for my chosen division I school, I felt as if I had NO talent!
I have been committed to this sport for roughly 10 years. While during those 10 years my training commitment has shifted, I have remained focused on one goal: continuing to improve myself. I have experienced injuries over the past 5 years that have left me out for large amounts of time (3 years). I have had smaller injuries that have required weeks here and there. One thing I have found is that each time I face an injury, getting back into running is easier. No, it is not easy, but it is easier than the last injury. This is in part, due to the base that I have built.
Running is a sport that truly relies on your previous years of commitment. Each day, each month, each year, that you run builds upon itself. You build muscle memories. If you are required, or you choose to take a break, you will have to work to get back in shape. Fortunately, though, that shape will come back. My most recent injury has left me semi out of the game for roughly 2.5 months. What do I mean by “semi”? Well, as the typical runner, I kept trying to run. I would take about a week or two off, then I would try running. Sometimes I could run for 3-4 days, then I would realize my injury was not gone, so I would go back to the drawing board and take off from running again. Two and a half months seems like a long time, and certainly within that amount of time you can lose the shape that you are in. I went for a run yesterday and chose to run a route that was uphill for the first half, then at the turn around point it would be downhill. Well, this sounded like a great idea, because when I am more tired at the end of the run, I can just cruise downhill. I don’t know if the previous shape I was in could have even felt okay going up this hill. My legs, my lungs, and my entire body was not used to, or ready to run straight up hill for 2 miles. I was so happy when I reached the turn around spot. While I did not expect the first 2 miles to be so hard, I was correct that the 2nd half would be awesome. It sure was! I felt smooth, in control, and that part of the run felt easy. For comparison, I ran my last mile almost a whole minute faster than my first mile, when I was running uphill!
This was one of my first runs back into the game since my most recent injury. While I was running uphill, I was certainly deceived. I thought I must be in terrible shape to feel this winded. However, on the downhill portion, I realized that I certainly have not lost much from my recent injury. Sure there are things I will have to work on getting back (leg speed), but for the most part I feel like I haven’t missed a step. And, the best part? I no longer have pain from my injury! I feel as though I am turning into an injury expert, and an expert in how to revamp your training post injury/get back in shape.
Make sure that if you have an injury, or a nagging pain to take off a few days then re-evaluate. It is much better to take off for a few weeks or couple months than many months, or a year. Nonetheless, you will feel much better once you start running again, because your body will be fully recovered. Afterall, most running injuries stem from overtraining, and your body is fatigued. In the grand scheme of running, missing days or weeks is not a detriment. It is the years of running, the cumulative effect that really makes a difference.
How many years have you been running?