One of the most important things I tell my athletes that I coach is to “trust your training.” It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and feel like you’re not improving fast enough. But, as the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait.” Patience is one of the most important characteristics an athlete can have, as results do not occur overnight, and only through consistent, focused training can one achieve their goals.
I personally had the opportunity to take my own advice recently. I started out my racing season in April with a 5K that I ran in 17:10; a great result given my lack of racing, training, and workouts in the past year, but a far cry from where I wanted to be. I used that to calculate my workout paces, and worked very hard over summer to try to get into marathon shape this fall.
I have participated in six other 5Ks since that season opener, and have barely improved in that time. In fact, all of my 5Ks have been slower, except for one: the Bergen 5K in August, where I eked out a 17:06. Even after that, my workouts didn’t really feel like they were improving, and I felt that I had stagnated and was not making any progress.
Then, in September, we got a break from the hot and humid weather, and suddenly my paces in workouts dropped to levels I hadn’t seen in years. I went from feeling like I was out of shape and struggling to run marathon pace for tempo runs to easily running the pace I raced a 10K in back in May. My long runs no longer left me feeling destroyed after and I even started to feel good in the days following my workouts.
Looking back through my training logs, the last time I was running these paces for workouts was prior to my 2:39 personal best at Grandma’s Marathon in 2013. So, despite my lack of confidence over the summer, all that work did pay off. I let myself get discouraged because I wasn’t seeing immediate results, even though I should have known that the weather over the summer was playing a big part of it. In fact, during the Bergen 5K, conditions were some of the worst I have ever raced in.
The moral of story is that you really do have to trust your training, be patient, and not get discouraged by poor race results, Each day, each mile that you run, is one more coin in the bank. Improving at distance running is a process that takes months or even years. Bide your time, put in the work, and you will see results!