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Attempting to run faster over 10 years (part 3)

Read Time - 7 minutes

“You only need to be slightly better than your competition, but if you are able to maintain a slight edge today and tomorrow and the day after that, then you can repeat the process of winning by just a little bit over and over again”

(c) James Clear

Note – This is Part 3 of “How/Why I’m attempting to run faster over the next 10 years” series. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

The year is almost over and I realised I didn’t update the world (aka you) on what I set out to do last year. I’m on a crusade to be an example to my family, friends, and community that significant life changes can happen by doing small things and by being more with less. 

In July 2017 I shouted to the world that each year for the next 10 years I would run a half marathon and attempt to get faster by 1% (roughly 1 minute) every year. If you do the math that’s 10% and would have me running about a 79-80 minute half marathon. Pretty good considering I did my half marathon in 95 minutes 11 years ago.

This particular time for this distance has always been on my bucket list of personal achievements since I completed my first half marathon. 

To accomplish this, it is simple in theory to conceptualize, but harder in practice to execute. Let me explain why below.

If you haven’t read parts 1 or 2, I suggest you read it, because it’s fun and informative (fun-formative!). I zoomed way out and thought that rather than trying to beat my best time by 3-5 minutes every few years, train haphazardly, get injured, burn out the years in between, etc. why don’t I apply the 1% rule and see what happens?

Wait, Half Marathon? Come On, Son! Why Not A Full Marathon?

Great question! My short answer is that I don’t think the full marathon is the best race for everyone, including myself. It is a huge jump in training load and overall skeletal and muscular endurance from the half to the full. The risk of injury and burnout is significantly greater compared to training and racing a half marathon. Not shitting on the people that do multiple marathons per year. Props to you! I’m just saying that the people that choose to run shorter races and test their fitness ability should be respected as much as the folks that do the marathon and ultramarathoners.

How Does This Help You?

Another great question! Training and planning for this annual time trial race would do 3 things for you/me/whoever is interested;

1- Give you/me/someone something to look forward and work to every year, season, month, week, day. Do you see the descending pattern of micromanaging habits and breaking your objectives into little bite-size chunks? I speak on this in great detail on my podcast Master Of Some. 

This is also important so we don’t have the “now what” syndrome that plagues some people after a big event they have been working towards for a while finishes.

“When you spend years working toward a huge stretch goal, you celebrate like crazy once you reach it—but after the hoopla, you might feel aimless, tired, and burnt out. And despite your best efforts, that feeling might not leave. Some people call it “Post-Project Depression.” It’s a type of situational depression that leaves you feeling low and uninterested in stuff that normally excites you.” 

Fellow master of some/generalist/multipotentialite, Kristin Wong 
ES Marks Track, Sydney, NSW, Australia

2- Develop ingrained habits at a fundamental level that always made sure I was progressing and never stalling. By breaking things down into small daily and weekly chunks, it’s much easier to stick with it. 

3- Be more fun and satisfying. I personally get excited when I see small gains over time. It then makes me want to double and triple my efforts to see if I can get the same scale return on my input efforts.

Sure, one year I might be slow due to the weather, life happening, injury, sickness, or life. But if you zoom out, it should be a nice linear upward progression of finishing times/efforts. (Technically the times would go down, but you get it!)

Tim Urban – WaitButWhy.Com – Religion for The Non Religious

The What & How Things I Did To Do “The Damn Thang”

  • I used my own “discovery process”. This is using scientific evidence-based research, speaking with experts, and my personal experience to formulate a hypothesis and then try to prove that wrong or right. From there I’m just learning and living.
  • This year was similar to what I did in previous years but more refined while throwing in a few things. I’ll get to that shortly.
  • I looked at the running season race calendar and because I didn’t want to do Gold Coast Half Marathon I needed to do my own DIY half marathon. Side note – I have decided I don’t like travelling too far for races. They mess me all up. I usually race for the time-trial aspect of testing my abilities, not for the race. I may be odd, but this is what I do. 

The New “What” Things I Did This Year

VO2 Max & Threshold Training
This changed my whole world, full stop.  The change was so drastic that I’m writing a dedicated post on this soon.  I feel this may have been a missing piece in my training over the past 6 years and has bridged together a lot of other things I have been refining to really lock shit in and start to make sense.

Strength & Power Training
I’m still trying to keep the weight room training simple and short, but I’m falling in love with this new suffering.  The cycle of getting stronger, adding more weight, failing, getting stronger, and repeating is intoxicating and addictive. It’s a great feedback loop (seeing your body transform!) that really breaks up my other endurance training throughout the week. 

Flexibility & Stretching
This is where I feel injury prevention, overall mobility, and less random aches and pains have been avoided.  This is a “sum of the parts” strategy. Doing this religiously, every day pays back tenfold in just an overall sense of feeling good.

Lost Body Fat and Gained Lean Muscle Mass
I wrote about that in extreme depth here.

Set a Schedule For Most Things
This is something I’m still tweaking, but my daily schedule for training, morning routines,  life admin, meals, work, and more. These all fall within a tightly monitored and structured system.

Time Trial | Race Day

  • I went into the day feeling great and having trained well. On most, if not all of my long run sessions, I hit my target pace and distance objectives. I used my weekly long run as a way to get myself tuned for the upcoming race. 
  • I set it up so that I would run the Sydney Striders 10k at Olympic Park, which is a mostly flat course, at my half marathon pace. Fortunately, they kept the course open for most of my run. Thanks, Sydney Striders Running Group, for accommodating!
  • It really was one of those “perfect race days” from weather to execution. I nailed every 5k split and believe it was from practicing that pace during my long runs a few weeks leading up that helped.
  • I felt super strong and actually did a huge negative split form the first half to the second.  My goal was to run 1:29, which would be a PR of 2 mins (2%+) from the previous year.  But I knew I had a possible 1:25 in me from my 10k and City 2 Surf times this year. I made the executive decision at 10km (6.1 miles) to start slowly ramping up the pace and was able to finish with a 1:24 which means I gained almost 8% from last year. Huge!
Olympic Park, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Lessons Learned, Takeaways, and The Future

The verdict is in. After 1.5 years of using it, the 1% rule works for me in the fitness and health area of my life and can quickly work for anyone else! The daily compound interest (sorry to use that again) dividends that are paid out to you is impressive when you don’t check your bank account every day.

This new training approach, from the physical to the mental side of things is effective. The paces I’m holding for races and distances that would have scared me five years ago are things that are now “normal”.

I’m looking forward to doing the same into 2019 but applying it mostly to the 5k and 10k distance. I’ll still do my annual half marathon, and I’m still aiming for 1 min faster (1:23). But since I will zoom out 10 years, even if I run slower at 1:31 the average from 2018 should help bring things down. 

It got me thinking that I could run a marathon with this same “Be More With Less” training approach… which, as you know I had to do it a month later. I needed revenge on this distance as it keeps humbling me. I will write more on that in the future.

Have you picked an objective that is slightly stretching you but is something you can work at and see gains over the next few years?

Again – This is Part 3 of “How/Why I’m attempting to run faster over the next 10 years” series. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

I also wrote some words on how I lost body fat, gained muscle, and created healthy systems that last a lifetime here.

Special Running Shoutouts 🏃‍♂️🏃🏽‍♂️🏃🏿‍♂️

Trent Salkavich, Sydney Sports Podiatrist  – For helping me sort out my feet issues and being generally awesome!
Ben Liddy, Running Coach – For maintaining my body for top run fitness peak performance
Phil Cross, Endurance Coach – For all of the random tidbits of information and encouraging me to do V02 max training
Kelsey Hutton, Dietician – for encouraging me to sort out my race nutrition months before this day
Suk Hee Lee – For doing the damn thang with me!