Deliberate Practice and Running

I’m a runner, race director, and a run coach. I get to meet a lot of other runners and I’ve never met a runner who doesn’t hope to run faster. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is; health, loosing weight, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, or winning and Olympic medal. We look at the clock, our paces and want to see a linear path of improvement. The numbers are the perfect feedback.

When you’re new to running, you improve quickly. Each time you test yourself you will likely see improvement. Motivation is high, it’s exciting to get personal bests each run. These results can last a few months but sadly we will stagnant. For the hobby runner they can be OK with this but for the runner who just missed their Boston Marathon qualifying time they won’t be. If that is you, read on.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, borrowed the theory that it takes 10000 hours to become a master at something. 10000 hours is a lot of time, especially in the sport of running we’re we are constrained by it’s difficultly. If for example I ran for 10000 hours, I’d have covered over 80000 miles, or roughly two times around the equator. I might be a master at that point but 99% chance I’d never make it. Injury and burnout would long have won over.

The theory of 10000 hours was borrowed from researcher Anders Erickson who has spent his life studying practice. In reality it was not the amount of hours spent practicing but the type of practice that was most important. He has coined the term deliberate practice.

I believe there are a lot of runners not practicing deliberately. Making some small, some bigger mistakes that are preventing them from improving. To reach your potential, you need to run a lot, but there is so many other practices you can incorporate to strive towards your mastery. 10000 of running is near impossible, but changing your lifestyle a bit means you are training effectively 24 hours a day.

That adds up.

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