How to Run for Life

The overriding reason you should run is simple.
You love the sport. In other words running should fill you with joy.
This reason cannot be overstated.

There will inevitably be other motivations to run. These could include financial gain, social status and/or club glory. But these should be additional benefits – if they even matter to you.

Instead, more consideration should be made towards fitness, companionship and even challenge, such as testing yourself in competition. These factors can enhance the experience of the sport. Again, only if you feel this is personally beneficial.

You should also run predominantly for yourself. It may appear obvious but when you run, you are using your own body and mind, and nobody else’s. This means that unless you understand your own body and mind, running can be self-destructive, such as in the case of severe overtraining or self-induced injury.

Other runners, and non-runners, can certainly inspire you to continue running (and even to get you started), but they cannot, and should not, affect every run you complete.

To be truly fulfilled you must be autonomous with your choice to pound the pavements.

I have never believed that running is a selfish act, despite the self-centred approach of the sport compared to, say, team sports.

Running is a personal pursuit that makes me a more balanced, healthy and stronger person. As long as running does not take so much of your life that there is little other time for anything else, then it can be an empowering and unique tool to gain success.

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that you will be in the best mood every time you lace up your running shoes. But you should appreciate that choosing to run (or not) is a privilege that not everyone has. By all means use any reason to run on any given day. But if your aim is to run for life then you have to believe that running improves your life, because it is fun.

This is the unwavering foundation of my running. It should be of yours.


This post is inspired by Pure Sport: Practical Sport Psychology (2nd ed., 2013) written by John Kremer and Aidan Moran.

Coping with Postponed Events

There will always be factors outside of a runner’s control.

One of them is the weather.

Unfortunately races get cancelled or postponed when the weather is deemed by the organisers as too treacherous.

It happened this weekend with the occurrence of more snow in the United Kingdom. The Roger One Mile time-trial scheduled for this afternoon (which I intended to race) and a local half marathon tomorrow (which two runners I coach had entered) have been postponed.

It is the first time this has affected my running.

Despite the initial disappointment, the calling off of an event should be no reason to prevent mine or anyone else’s progress. This relies on always having an alternative plan.

For example, for my One Mile Challenge, I always intended to attempt my goal at least three times, with adequate rest in between attempts. This meant I didn’t have to rely on only one occasion, with certain conditions and preparations. It also allows me to experiment, using experience to guide me.

The Roger One Mile time-trial would be on a local track ‘racing’ with others, and my other two attempts would be run alone along self-devised routes on flat surfaces such as pavement and road.

Even for longer distances you can easily research another race ahead of time that you would be available to race if required. Likewise, a self-organised race (in the form of a virtual race) can provide the necessary motivation to meet your goal. Although the crowds or traffic-free route may not be present, I believe this is one way to build self-confidence and mitigate the inevitable issues of externally-organised events.

My advice also applies when illnesses, injuries or emergencies stop you from participating in a running race. If you prepare well in advance for any potential problems you’ll have an effective psychological technique to cope with other setbacks that occur in training and in the off-season.

This can easily be incorporated into your racing strategy long before you travel to the start line. 

You’ll then become a more resilient runner that has, paradoxically, greater control over your running.

Famous Contributions of Sir R Bannister

Twin Tracks: The Autobiography (2014) by Roger Bannister


Born in 1929, Roger Bannister grew up in Harrow, Bath and Hampstead, winning numerous races from half-mile to cross country distances in his teenage years. He later competed for Oxford, whilst studying medicine, where he would meet other top British runners.

His race reports are fascinating insights into a professional and humble man. He sheds light on his rising journey to become an Olympic medallist, only to finish fourth in a dramatic race at the Helsinki Games in 1952. This was due to exhaustion from running the 1500m heat and semi-final in the two consecutive days leading up to the final.

However, his determination to overcome the damning press and realise his potential meant he continued to train smart towards new, but no less ambitious, goals. During his time winning four AAA (British) Championships in four years, and breaking the British record for the mile, he set his sights on breaking the four-minute mile, a feat the Australian John Landy was also close to achieving.

On 6 May 1954 at the age of 25 he did just that, using his two best friends Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway to pace him at different stages along the four laps of the Iffley Road Track at Oxford University. He ran the first and last lap in under 60 seconds each, and finished in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Significant factors contributed to his success, despite the abnormally windy day:

  • 5 rest days beforehand.

  • Lighter shoes than he was used to.

  • Ability to relax at the crucial moments of the run.

  • Willingness to wait for weather conditions to improve.

  • Positive encouragement from his friends, the crowd and one-time coach Franz Stampfl.

Then he beat Landy in the 1 mile race at the Commonwealth Games of 1954 in Vancouver with a lifetime best of 3:58.8. Bannister ended his impressive career by winning the 1500m gold medal at the European Championships in Switzerland in another lifetime best and championship record of 3:43.8.

In his book he reflects on his achievements during his decade-long running career

  • Genetics played a role in his development as a runner; he reached six foot in height and possessed strengthened legs that were naturally long in comparison to his torso. His father was also a strong runner at school.

  • Specific training with single aims that balanced well with work, family and social commitments. His training was refined over many years that consisted of either 25 miles per week, or 4-5 sessions of 40 minutes per week, incorporating a lot of fartlek and interval training.

His advice to readers to improve their running is intriguing and pragmatic:

  • Run with friends to make the hard work of training more enjoyable.

  • Find a knowledgeable coach that inspires.

  • Experiment with training but also play to strengths.

  • Learn to harness natural instincts of pacing.

But it is Bannister’s position as consultant neurologist at two major hospitals in London, and as senior advisor to organisations, such as the Sports Council and the International Council of Sport and Physical Education, that warrant even greater admiration. His work paved the way for greater funding and provision of superb sporting facilities that support greater participation at every ability level. The various honours he has received are a token of his life’s extraordinary contribution.

How to Gain an Ultra Mindset

The Ultra Mindset (2015) by Travis Macy


Macy is an experienced and successful adventure racer and ultrarunner from the United States of America. He retells the story of his life, training in the mountains, finding love and building upon his father’s athletic achievements.

The audiobook reveals numerous skills and personality traits that can enhance endurance performance. Through his experiences at major races such as the Leadman race series, the Adventure Racing World Championships and the Fastest Known Time (FKT) run across Zion National Park, Macy explores eight features of a superior mindset.

  1. Use every challenge as a means to strengthen your mind.

  2. Find inspirational people that you wish to imitate.

  3. Discover your internal and external motivators and learn when to use them.

  4. Improve your self-belief but never overestimate your obstacles.

  5. Always prepare and remain conscious of your thoughts during races.

  6. Wake up early to be more efficient with your time.

  7. Construct stories about yourself that are positive and affirmative.

  8. Never quit unless in a life-threatening situation.

Other tips Macy offers include using internal music as a method to find a running rhythm, and repeating internal mantras such as  “it’s all good mental training” and “never give up”. This advice is summarised by not letting fear stop you aiming high. The audiobook also has countless practical exercises to help runners reflect on and learn from their running in a meaningful way.

Why Everyone Should Consider Running

Get Running (2011) by Matt Roberts


Roberts believes in the transformational qualities of running, referring to its ability to incite positive emotions, bring new understanding to life and find otherwise unexplored places in the world.

He outlines a concise history of modern running, starting in the 1960s by Arthur Lydiard, an influential ‘jogger’ from New Zealand. He proposes that running is the quickest and simplest means of getting fitter and losing weight. The appeal of fundraising and running ultramarathons only heightens people’s natural instinct to lead healthier lives.

Read more

Mitigating the Challenges of Ultramarathons

Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel (2013) by Jason Robillard


This guide to ultrarunning is down-to-earth and unique. Robillard offers a fresh perspective on running factors such as distance and cut-off times, terrain and weather, and pacing and strategy. It is the purposeful physical advice and experimental mental training that stands out.

Calorie Consumption

Robillard urges runners not to be reliant on eating food during long runs as this can be a distraction and also dictate a certain pace range. Instead he advises eating as little as possible before and during training runs so runners can better utilise their fat stores to cope with extremely long distances.

However, when deciding to eat he explains that personal cravings should not be ignored, and that chia seeds can be a nutritious option on the go, as is adopted by the famous Tarahumaras.

Practice Every Aspect of Racing

Robillard encourages runners to take a systematic approach to replicating every running situation. For example, he advises runners to fall, on purpose, whilst running slowly in order to practice breaking the impact by rolling with arms out and elbows bent.

Enthusiasm to experiment is essential for runners if they are to understand what aspects help, and hinder, during an endurance event. Enjoyment and performance should both be enhanced as a result of understanding one’s individual responses to training stimuli.

His race strategies for ultramarathons also include walking, advocating that runners should become fast walkers. Walking enables runners to better survive harsh race conditions, by continuing to move forward.

Managing Pain

Robillard also outlines a no-nonsense attitude to pain.

Runners should accept, embrace and learn to enjoy the aches that occur during a race. His positivity originates from his belief that most pain is temporary and can be dealt with before it flares up. Writing a list of the regions that may hurt and a race strategy of fixing problems, long before setting off from the start line, can really help.

An effective technique is to train in every mood, especially when you do not feel like running, either through tiredness or hunger. Another is to speed up when in pain, if for no other reason than to respond differently to natural instincts, this breaks the monotony of running.


Although unconventional Robillard offers invaluable advice on how to view and tackle ultramarathons. Ultimately, he believes endurance challenges are akin to difficult life events; the sharper you react the more empowered you are to succeed.

An Ultra Transformation

Finding Ultra (2012) by Rich Roll


Serious Swimmer

Roll was born in the 1960s and by age six he was swimming, inspired by his grandfather who was a top swimmer, an Olympic hopeful and local legend. He was mentored by excellent older swimmers and his love for the water grew as he began winning local summer school meets before he was ten.

He was bullied throughout his school years so worked hard on his studies rather than his social life. It taught him to accept and thrive despite pain, as he was accustomed to the disconnect with his peers.

His tenacity to develop and realise his swimming potential resulted in him training in the pool as early as 5am and accumulating over eighteen hours of swimming a week. At age sixteen he was travelling all over the United States competing in the 200m butterfly, recognised as eighth in the country for his age group, often finishing in second place. He also single-handedly inspired his school to found a swimming team.

He attended Stanford University due to its superb swimming programme and was made freshman co-captain.

Audacious Alcoholic

Roll’s performance levels would soon fall once he was hooked on drinking alcohol, which was partly a mechanism to overcome his social anxiety. He dropped out of the team and would later become a legal assistant in New York. His raucous social drinking lead him to dodging DUIs, a failed marriage and eventually being arrested in Los Angeles.

Roll continued to relapse until he was forced into rehab after realising he had a problem and would lose his job if he did not change his habits. Over the next one hundred days Roll changed his perception of himself, and rid himself of resentment and fear in order to draw on spirituality and faithfulness to recover.

Lean Vegan Triathlete

Despite staying sober for many years, fathering a family and setting up a successful entertainment law firm, Roll was overweight and addicted to unhealthy foods. As he turned forty he knew he needed to change if he wanted to live longer. So he transformed his diet with support from his yoga and juice enthusiast wife.

Roll quickly adjusted to a vegan diet, similar to Scott Jurek, becoming ripped and losing over forty-five pounds. Inspired by the popular movement of Ironman Triathlons, he entered a long-course hilly half distance in 2007 but did not finish, suffering cramp and succumbing to high muscle lactate. In the same year he had to walk the last eight miles of the Long Beach Marathon.

So in May 2008, Roll experimented more with his food choices, motivated by fuel optimisation rather than for political or ethical reasons, and worked with top coach Chris Hauth.

After lactate tests, months of zone 2 training, periodisations and a whole-foods plant-based diet Roll steadily enhanced his aerobic endurance capacity.

Inspired by David Goggins, he completed the UltraMan World Championships in 2008 (eleventh overall) and 2009 (sixth overall). Not satisfied, Roll embraced an even more extreme test of fitness in 2010 – the EPIC 5 adventure. Alongside Jason Lester, a disabled athlete and friend, he embarked on a series of back-to-back Ironman Triathlons on the islands of Hawaii.

Despite the enormity of the challenge, adverse weather conditions, frequent mechanical faults with bicycles, saddle rashes and the loss of essential gear, they both navigated five separate islands over seven days, accumulating 12 miles of swim, 560 miles of cycling and 131 miles of running (703 miles in total).

Transformation

Roll’s journey from high school swimmer to chronic alcoholic, and overweight lawyer to elite endurance triathlete is remarkable. Along with an unwavering dedication to change his life, Roll took advantage of the advice and presence of national swimming champions, Olympic Trial qualifiers, and even Olympic medalists. He came into contact with some of the best swimmers in the world, including his idols such as Pablo Morales and John Moffet.

His persistence to better himself led him to realise that a healthy and fit lifestyle is within everyone’s grasp. He distilled his vegan diet into easily digestible and compelling advice for his readers. Foods he uses throughout his incredible feats include many slow-releasing carbohydrates:

  • Avocado and veganaise sandwiches
  • Coconut water
  • Kale and spinach
  • Mustard greens and spirulina
  • Rice balls and yams

His openness to explore himself and follow proven principles resulted in him running many miles at a lower intensity to improve his ratio of exertion to relative speed. He is a true inspiration because his positive attitude and quest for finding other people’s motivation (through his own popular podcast) is second-to-none.

Tackling Anorexia with Ultrarunning

The Extra Mile (2006) by Pam Reed with Mitch Sisskind


Battling Anorexia

Brought up in the Midwest of the United States, Pam Reed was a competitive and energetic tomboy, who developed in a culture of self-reliance and physical resilience.

In her adolescence Reed was inspired to become a gymnast, and later would commit to 1,000 sit-ups a day and running to stay fit for playing tennis. But she would train with a reduced caloric intake, wanting to maintain a slight build. She admitted herself to hospital several times, and yet never relied on drugs to improve her relationship with food and her body.

The catalyst for change came when she was told she would not reach her ultrarunning potential if she failed to eat enough to fuel and recover adequately.

Ultramarathon Success

Influenced by her husband’s love of triathlons, she first trained and competed with him at Ironman Canada, where she finished as the ninth woman.

She soon became addicted to pushing her physical and mental limits, running over 100 marathons including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and London. She has also conquered more than 100 ultramarathons, including the Elkhorn 100k, Wasatch 100 (mile), Leadville 100 (mile) as well as 24 and 48 hour championships, where she has set numerous American records.

But it is her back-to-back wins at the brutal Badwater 135 mile race in 2002 and 2003 that she explores most in her book and which proved her class as a runner. Her love and natural adaptation to running in the heat gave her the necessary confidence to excel. She also ran 300 miles non-stop (12x 25 mile loops) in 2005, in under 80 hours. Although she ran too fast too soon, it was a highlight of her career because of the deep connection she made with her family and friends.

Her success has come from consistent performances, where external pressure failed to negatively affect her, and where nutritional liquids, energy drinks and soda water always provided a boost. Her mentor and ‘personal physician’ Chuck Giles played an immeasurable part in Reed’s pacing, crewing and fuelling during some of her hardest races. Despite her huge achievements Reed is humble and believes she has over-trained for many years (racing on average 24 times per year), suggesting she could have improved her endurance records.

Her influences include other ultrarunning champions such as Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Marshal Ulrich and Dean Karnazes. She has also raced with Charlie Engle.

Running Tips for Balancing Life

As a mother of many children, wife, and race director of the Tuscan Marathon, Reed has to juggle many responsibilities.

Reed has defied pre-conceptions throughout her career, including running two marathons in three days, running only days after giving birth (and running a 100 mile race only 10 weeks afterwards), and never becoming seriously injured.

Reed used triathlons as her base fitness for her ultramarathons, and has trained with a jogging stroller, her dog and other ambitious women. Although she feels guilty for not always prioritising her family, she recognises that athletic excellence requires many hours of focused effort.

She further offers essential advice for any ultrarunner.

  • Crews need to laugh, talk a lot and always remain positive. Crews have the power to lose a race for a runner, and so they must be willing to do anything without showing fatigue.
  • Practice breaking long races into manageable distances. For example, a 100 miler can be viewed as one mile repeated 100 times.
  • Never think of how many miles left, look rarely at the sports watch, and think only of the short distance in front.
  • Always have multiple race goals. For example, the first goal is to finish, then to run a new personal best (either over sections or the full distance), and finally to win the race.

Reed is a legend of the sport, not only because of her impressively long list of race results but also her openness about the challenge (and expense) of her lifelong pursuit, and the respect she shows herself by never making excuses.

How to Breathe to Improve your Running

We have to breathe to live.

But this subconscious act is more important than you think for running performance.

Your breathing is a limiting factor. Too often the exhaustion that slows runners comes from the gasping for oxygen rather than the build-up of lactate in the legs.

The rhythm of your breathing reflects your level of effort and is an accurate predictor of future running pace. If your breathing is not under your direct control then you are running too hard to sustain and the pace is likely to drop quickly.

Whenever I concentrate on my breathing whilst running I take air in through my nose for two seconds, then blow out harder through my mouth for another two seconds. This means I am better in-tune with my body as focusing on my breathing inadvertently controls my heart rate, and therefore my running economy.


Your mission should be to run faster whilst maintaining a regular breathing pattern. Therefore, in training you need to experiment to understand how it affects your specific pace and enjoyment. Over time your desired rhythm will become instinctual.

The better you understand your breathing, the more you can channel your nerves and excitement into improved performance. Regardless of the running distance it is essential you start in control of your breathing, so you still have enough puff to finish strongly.