It is an old habit at this time of the year for many of us to make New Year’s resolutions which are designed to discard undesired behaviours in order to accomplish a goal. Most New Year’s resolutions are dominated by health choices.
“I’m going to join a gym”, “I’m going to give up smoking” are two of the more common resolutions. But sadly, most New Year’s resolutions are abandoned shortly after they were made, anything from a day to a couple of weeks later.
As they determine their resolutions for 2020 I can’t help wondering how many Comrades marathon runners resolve to train harder this year, to really work hard, to run more long runs, to let nothing interfere, to run their best possible Comrades.
When I was still running competitively my New Year’s resolution was never to try and train harder than I ever had before, nor to train harder than any of my opponents. My plan was always to try and train more cleverly than my competitors.
I was always determined to be the cunning runner, and not the hardest working runner. For a little over a decade I was able to stick to my New Year’s resolutions. Here is a list of the promises I made to myself at midnight on the 31st December each year (Actually, I was usually asleep as the clock reached midnight and the fireworks started exploding).
- I will not catch early season “ #desperatelykeentitis “. This is a disease of chronic enthusiasm that seems to infect hundreds of Comrades runners as on the 1st of January the expression “this year’s Comrades” suddenly becomes a reality. Fired up with a toxic mixture of enthusiasm and guilt (I drank too much, and I ate too much on holiday! And worse than that, I’ve been lazy) Guilt stricken, those runners immediately start training as hard as they can, that’s as soon as the sunrises on 1st January.
- I will have a detailed plan. The first task of the New Year is to construct a plan and a strategy about how I am going to tackle this great adventure. This plan will help to inoculate me against #desperatelykeentitis and protect me from impulsive decisions. (“Hey, we’re all off to run a new marathon this weekend. Why don’t you join us?” – No, no thanks it’s not part of my plan)
- I will understand that my body can only take about 10 weeks of intense training and that serious Comrades training begins at the beginning of March, and not on New Year’s morning. (If you happen to live in South Africa’s highveld region that’s when autumn leaves are blowing in the streets and the cosmos flowers are blooming at the sides of the roads.) Until then I will still train, but at a reduced rate and I will relax, and run for fun.
- I will not be distracted by other runners prodigious training schedules and early season p.b.s (personal bests times) and will promise myself that I am saving myself for the Comrades Marathon and that my great effort will come on the 9th June.
- Whenever I feel tired, drained, heavy legged, or stiff and sore during the next few months I will chant this mantra to myself “rest, recovery, rest, recovery”.
- I will not race too many ultra- marathons and marathons in the important build-up to Comrades. I will not allow myself to be distracted by flirtations with other races but will put all my eggs in the Comrades basket. I will run a few marathons but will have fun running them and treat them as important Comrades training runs. I will not be tempted to race them.
- I will understand that any injury that afflicts me is not an “act of God” but rather of my own doing. Injuries are caused by the “toos” (Too much, too fast, too hard, too soon). Once again I will acknowledge that Comrades success goes not to the person who trains the hardest but to the person who trains the cleverest.
- I will remind myself that no one has a perfect training build-up and that even gold medallists suffer set-backs. When I suffer one of those set-backs, and I will at some stage, I will seek professional help if necessary and I will remind myself that an enforced rest is often exactly what my body needs.
Article originally published in the Citizen newspaper.
Bruce is a South African running legend and 9-time Comrades Marathon winner. He is also the author of Fordyce Diaries which cover how to run the up and down editions of the Comrades Marathons.