Can you be a Better runner?

Ever since I started running, I have often been quizzed by people whether I aspire to be as quick as Usain Bolt. Yes, you read it right, and of course – not everyone did that. This has often created a clash of thoughts when it comes to defining a “better runner”. I am writing this article to share my thoughts, or rather learning on running.
Image Courtesy: Google Images

For those who aren’t aware – I have been running now for an year and the experience has been a great teacher. At the start: A better runner doesn’t necessarily mean a faster runner. A better runner means a healthier runner, a less injured runner, a more efficient runner. 

While I began running, I had to fight against my own thoughts, the devils in my mind, which kept questioning my ability to stretch beyond 25 minutes of running. Trust me, a lot of you can now be at this stage and statistically speaking also, I am sure more than 60% of those who aspire to run, get struck at this stage and don’t recover from this at all.  

Just to give one quick insight – when I began running, I was running at a pace of 9.30min/KM and now it has come down to 5.23 Min/KM. In between that, I had completed one half marathon, and now with a mindset to compete in two other by this year end. This is purely a result of not giving up when it pained the most.

Here I am, trying to compile the thoughts on my learning on what it takes to beat the devils in your mind and body and be a better runner (definition of a “better runner” is at the beginning of this article).


This is the key ingredient.

No matter what your fitness goals are – unless you try to be consistent, it does not work. Increase in stamina comes from being consistent, that means running regularly to accumulate and improve your fitness. The time taken to be consistent will depend on the type of run, quicker and more intense runs being on the lower end of the range with long steady runs being on the other higher end of the range. 

With Consistency, comes Endurance. Mental endurance and physical endurance are drivers of each other. One needs to be mentally tough to be able to either run shorter quick run or a long steady run, and for being mentally tough one needs to have belief in the process, and for having the belief in the process one needs to begin seeing results and for that one needs to be physically fit.

For Endurance building, what you eat definitely matters. You definitely have to take in CARBS. I will never prescribe or listen to someone who asks me to avoid carbs. This is what will give a genuine and enough energy to cover the distance.

Long runs

Depending on your running goals, whether you want to do a half/full marathon or a quick 5k or 10k run, your training style definitely needs to differ. I fondly remember telling myself before my first 10k run, “To come first, you first need to come” which means to win a race, we first need to participate and cross the finish line. Howsoever the timings are, it is extremely important to be there throughout, listen to your body and not give up when it pains. This phase of long runs training is really important because the tendons, ligaments definitely need their own time to recover and increase strength. Go slow and keep thinking on covering the entire distance without retiring. The moment you have completed, will give you amazing confidence.

Tempo runs

These runs are normally run over a shorter distance, but at a higher pace than at which you normally train. Training like this trains your body to run longer before fatigue builds up and slows you down. Tempo runs should be a ‘comfortably hard’ pace that lasts from 20 – 40 Minutes. They should not be an all-out effort that has you gasping for breath, but a challenging pace that you feel you can maintain over the duration of the run.

Elevation runs

This has been my very recent learning. I have planned to participate in the upcoming Hyderabad Marathon, and understood that the track will have 12 over bridges. Obviously I felt that working out for legs (includes Cycling, squats, lunges, etc) will help the cause, but interestingly when I tried to test my capacity as a pilot to understand the kind of training I need, I set myself a goal to cover an over bridge up and down 10 times, but had to retire after the fourth lap because I started cramping badly. This was a huge learning that I had recently about elevation runs and how it helps in improving your breathing through the run. Couple of days later, I used the treadmill at 16% inclination (not sure, how many degrees does 1% denote) for an elevated run for a mile.
The effect of this was elevation run on my breathing was seen when I hit the roads couple of days later to do a flat road run and without realizing I completed the run with my best pace, running throughout at an average speed of 11.52KM/hr for 38 minutes, which has been my personal best.

Cross train

Running is definitely challenging, physically and mentally. But, the even more interesting challenge is to beat your mind to stay away from boredom, and also build on its ability to focus on a single point for a longer period of time. For this mental fitness to set in, physical fitness is the driver. For the physical fitness to set in, just mere running is not enough. Plan your workout well, focus on your core strengths, squat more to avoid cramping during long runs and to not pull your hamstring muscle in a short quick run.  Focus on planks for lower back core strengthening. You may also choose to do deadlifts, but be very careful on your posture.

Hydrate really well throughout the day!

Body pain

Talk to me about the list of events that are inevitable in this planet, and I will always top the list with body pain. From tendon, sore feet, thigh chafing, nipple burners, sore back, etc. I need to write a separate article on the different types of pain that will come up, why does it pain, and how can we avoid/recover. For now, for this article’s sake, I will mention that it is extremely inevitable and should not be a reason to give up. Trust me, many who start aggressively, give up in a week or so when the pain sets in. It is plainly because they don’t understand it is a part of the process.

This is the most important aspect.

The further you run, the more you’re challenging yourself and therefore need to ensure your body is recovering between sessions. Good recovery comes from a good diet, stretching and sufficient sleep. Aim to eat a quality meal or snack of carbs and protein within 30 minutes after finishing your run. This is the optimal window of recovery where your body can best absorb the nutrients to refuel and recover with. Focusing on this will enable you to recover between sessions and go into each run feeling strong and able to complete it.

What is a recovery run?

It’s easy to go out and run hard or push the pace on every run. This may seem like a good way to train to get quicker, but this is counterproductive. It will leave you always running at a ‘comfortably hard’ pace each time, making you too tired to perform during harder workouts or give it your all on another run. It can be hard to change your mentality, but running slow keeps something in the tank for other runs where you need to run faster. Recovery runs are also a great way to simply loosen up and get the blood flowing, which prepares you for a harder session later in the week. Recovery is where the body adapts and improves, not during a workout. A workout provides the stimulus, recovery enables adaptation and improvements

Mind is the energy box

Running further than you ever have before can be daunting, but you can do it! Mentally preparing yourself for your longest run of the week will make it easier. Some ways to make a long run seem less daunting are to break it down to 1 Km at a time, and even that one km you may choose to split it to three laps. Up to 300m at a walk/jog pace; up to 800m at a steady pace; the remaining 200m at the maximum speed. By doing this, you are mentally only focusing on completing the nearest next target and the mind gives you the needed adrenaline to go your distance. 


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