My running journey has not been plain sailing. I picked it up in first year of university in a bid to join a running club, and swiftly ditched it after a couple of kilometres (yup, I didn’t even finish the first group run). Over the next couple of years, I would walk and hike endlessly around Scotland and Europe, but my running was reserved for the treadmill in the local leisure centre gym: I would do around a mile each time, running to Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell and timing my sprints for when the tempo sped up.
Moving to Hong Kong was when I found my stride with running — it wasn’t about weight loss or fitness, which took the pressure off a bit. I just wanted to explore. I wanted something to do in the evenings in a strange city where I was still making friends. I wanted something to put my stress and anxiety and aggression into. Once I ran my first 10K, I was hooked on the adrenalin of races.
Running, like any sport, isn’t something you achieve though. Sure, I might get a personal best one day, but if I don’t keep at it, I won’t be able to sustain it, never mind beat it. I reached a wall with my running last November: I had just run a 19K trail race that I hadn’t been prepared for, mentally or physically. It wiped me out. I decided to take a break for running and fall back in love with it at my own pace. It’s been slow, and often frustrating — I continued to run to ‘maintain’, but without pushing myself, I’ve lost a lot of the speed and endurance I spent three years building up.
As I’m slowly rebuilding my running stamina, I’ve been reflecting on the things that helped get me to where I was at my ‘peak’. These running tips might not work for everyone, everywhere, but hopefully, there’s a couple of tricks here that will help make you a better runner — and if I can take my own advice, then maybe myself too.
Run All Year Round
There’s a lot of reasons not to run all the time. It’s too hot; it’s too cold; you’re on holiday; it’s Christmas. However, not giving in to those excuses gives you a competitive edge. Adapt your runs for whatever the weather or geographical difficulties are. In summer, I do shorter runs, go slower, and take water, or when I’m on holiday I’ll get up an hour early and go explore or do a quick 3K run. It’s about building a habit and staying consistent. When conditions allow, push yourself, and you’ll see the difference later.
Change Your Playlist Regularly
Every three months is the sweet spot, I think. I’m not a person who listens to new music regularly, so this I a tricky one for me. Changing your music keeps you on your toes, quite literally – my old running playlists are like comfort songs now, and it makes me more inclined to daydreaming rather than focussing on pushing myself and speeding up with the music.
Stretch Stretch Stretch
This is every runner’s weakness: not stretching enough. Make sure that you warm up – treat the first kilometre as a gentle intro to get the muscles going – and make sure before, during, and after you stretch when you need to. If you’re serious about you’re running, it’s worth investing in a foam roller to maximise the benefits of those stretches.
Run New Routes
I have my favourite runs that I do on a regular basis, but every once in a while, I need to go somewhere I’ve never been. It doesn’t have to be every time you run, but maybe once a month I’ll go running somewhere I’ve never been before. If it’s a good route, it gets added to my running route rotation, and if not, it was at least an adventure. If you want some inspiration for new running routes in Hong Kong, my recommendations are up on Compare Retreats Magazine.
Sign Up For Races
I find the number one motivation to keep up a running habit, and to keep pushing yourself to go further and faster, is to have a goal to work towards. Whether it’s a personal best on a 5K, trying out a trail run instead of a road race, or taking on your first marathon, having that motivation is one of the easiest ways to keep getting better as a runner. The Bromo Marathon half-marathon I did was one of the most inspiring routes — a challenge, adventure, and beautiful route to boot.