Emails from my Team: [Insert Runner’s World tagline about setting PR’s by running less]


Posted by Jeff Knight, coach of Team Rogue El Jefe, program director of Marathon High, running nerd (mostly nerd) and adamant believer in the use of parentheses in his blogs (can’t help it). 

…..Well not necessarily running less. Maybe “running the same mileage” is more appropriate. Whatever. The point is that sometimes you don’t need to change you’re running to run faster.

I love my athletes. They work hard, they train consistently, they take care of themselves (most of the time) and they know what they want out of running.  Most of the time the road to that goal or accomplishment is pretty straightforward. Questions revolve around weekly mileage, rest days and pace.  Those are all excellent and supremely important questions. But sometimes you get those questions, those big-picture questions that, in all honesty, are really tough to ask but the pay off is huge. Indescribably huge.

This is what most of my athletes want. They want this or the coveted PR at this. (via

As a coach, I love those questions. When you get those questions I imagine its like when a music FOMO (“fear of missing out”, it’s a noun…sort of) gets the opportunity to go to that uber exclusive Justin Timberlake show at SXSW 2013.  (Ok, I realize I probably lost most of you guys to a google search.  That’s ok. It’s totally worth it to add “SXSW” and “Justin Timberlake” to my Tags for this blog.) The music-nut will do anything to get into the show. Once, there they tweet about, remember and relish the show.  Likewise, a coach does the same for these types of questions (minus the tweeting)…..the “big” question.  The reason is, if you can help the athlete reach some semblance of an answer to that question the pay off is substantial.  Below is a conversation regarding one of those questions.

To frame it, it was a conversation between myself and an incredible runner on Team Rogue el Jefe back in….cough!….December  (sorry, I’m a bad blogger).  She was in a bit of slump during that boring part of the training cycle and, not quite feeling it the way she normally does.


The athlete writes:

Ha “The Truth” as if I lie to you all the rest of the time?  No, I don’t.  I promise. 

But the truth is, I’m in a bit of a slump.  I’m trying hard at my workouts, which is good.  I’m in the mid-60’s mileage-wise, which is good.  But I’m not doing all the other things it would take to get me to my new PR.  I say I’m going to.  And then I don’t 😦  I even make bargains with myself, and I still don’t. 

Part of it is that the wind came out of my sails after [Sue] race.  That probably sounds stupid.  What I mean is, I was counting on [Sue] so I could say to myself “See! [Sue] did it! You can too!” 

That’s not entirely it and it would be a stupid excuse anyway.  I recognize that. 

I ran with my girlfriend Laura and she said I’m afraid of failing.  I think that’s definitely part of it.  

I’m not quite sure how to lift myself out and I’m not necessarily asking for help, just letting you know.”  (emphasis mine)

This athlete didn’t even ask a question directly but I could feel it in the undertones. When you know an athlete well, you can see the questions in their body language or their statements.

Below is my response:

Let me warn you, this is a little stream of consciousness….

First off, you’re [Jane] 🙂  Not [Sue].  [Sue] didn’t do what she was capable of doing for a number of reasons, most rookie type mistakes.  Nothing a wiley veteran would do.  Over hydrate the day before, go out too hard, get negative during the race, etc.    Her fitness was there.  She was on x:xx pace until mile 20 and then slowed down due to stomach issues. Not her legs. Not her breathing. The point is it had nothing to do with her fitness.

Yeah its nice to have that vicarious experience but a vicarious experience is no guarantee.  You still gotta go out and run the race. Which you will.   The reason you will is because you just initiated a very authentic and super tough conversation.  That fear of failure is the number one thing keeping EVERYONE from running at their fullest potential.  We honestly do have olympic-medal caliber athletes on RAC but until they TRULY lay it on the line, they wont do it.  The only way you can lay it on the line is overcoming that fear of failure.  How do you do that? Well thats a personal thing.  Here’s a few things to think about.  One might speak to you. All might speak to you. None might speak to you. They are related but also disconnected. 

1) Failing at the marathon doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re still going to be [Jane]. You’re still going to be an amazing runner and a wonderful person. It’s ok to fail. 

2) There is no such thing as failure, only the potential to grow. Even “failure” gives you the chance to learn and improve. In other words, there is no such thing as a bad race. 

3) You MUST fail to reach your potential. If you never fail you aren’t trying hard enough. You aren’t experimenting with things to make you better. You’re playing it safe becuase safe is comfy but safe isn’t always growth. 

4) Remove the negative.  Remove failure from your vocabulary.  Instead of going out with the potential to fail. You need to go out there as a fit, bad ass little marathoner seeing what she’s made of.  Its a journey of exploration. Lets see what you’re capable of. Lets see where your fitness will take you. Explore your potential.  

5) Its just running.  Yes you’re a runner. Yes that’s part of what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror but at the end of the day its just a hobby. A very serious hobby but nonetheless. Your paycheck isn’t on the line. Dinner isn’t on the line.  Rent isn’t on the line.  You do it becuase its fun.  Push yourself because it’s damn fun to see what you’re made of. 

You’ll get outta this rut. Don’t force your way out, just let it happen. Its a tough time of year. Boston is forever away.  Im not focused on it. No one else in the group is really focused on it. And thats how it should be.  I promise that in January Boston will be the number one focus. You’ll get all the love and attention you deserve.  That will help bring you outta it. You’ll get the workouts you need to get the confidence to run 3:25.  I’ll brain wash you to believe in your fitness 🙂    You’ll be fine.  I promise.  

Until then focus on you. Focus on [Jane].  Its an experiment of one. Not an experiment of [Sue]-[Jane].  The rut will pass. The confidence will return. You’ve got plenty of time to do the things you need to do.  The fall build was 16 weeks and that was borderline too long.  As long as you’re ready to work when things start up in Jan. you’ll be fine.  You’ll feel my energy then.  You’ll be in a good place.”

The point is sometimes to run faster, you don’t have to run differently. Instead you need to ask yourself some questions, chew on those questions and get feedback on those questions from people you trust (like your coach). It’s like a mental training session. Sometimes runners won’t even realize they are being held back by something like fearing to fail. Runners spend so much time in their own head but most of that time is the equivalent as watching TMZ.   As a coach, I challenge you to spend some of that time asking yourself big questions like “What if I don’t get my PR”, “Why do I still run after 10 years of running?”, “What do I want to get out of this next race?”, “What is that big question?” or “What if I do hit my PR?” (fear of success……that’s a whole ‘nother blog). Spend some time that is the equivalent to watching…..Baby Einstein…..Planet Earth in your head.

Whether they know it or not, every runner is struggling with a “fear of failure” question. And I promise you, if you actively work to answer this question you’ll run faster.  Like way faster.  Faster than you know you can run.  Most of our limitations aren’t physical; they’re mental barriers.  In order to over come them you must first 1) identify that barrier and 2) engage in an authentic conversation with yourself and someone else to find a way to get over that barrier. Like a hard track workout, this exercise is challenging but if you do it you’ll run faster and, as promised, you’ll do it without every having to run an extra step.

To view other “Emails to my Team” click here


One thought on “Emails from my Team: [Insert Runner’s World tagline about setting PR’s by running less]

  1. Pingback: Ultimate Respect for the New Runner | The Rundown

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