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What Are the Most Important Traits of a Successful Endurance Athlete?

Las Vegas Endurance Athlete

Las Vegas Endurance AthleteBy: Jeremy Wallace

I have this picture of runner Amy Hastings, cut from a magazine, on my fridge along with the following quote from a different source:

“I believe an athlete’s genetics are probably the second biggest factor to success.  The most important ingredient is the mental edge that all great athletes possess.  The drive. The heart.  The anger. The hunger. The desire. The desperation. The ability to suffer. The absolute hatred of being second best. And the intense fear of failure.”

Hastings was in the final stretch on her way to winning the 10,000m final in the 2012 US Olympic trials.  I cut the picture out because I see all of the above traits captured in this photo and I wanted to be reminded of what it takes to be a successful endurance athlete, for myself and for the athletes I train.

Before you get your running shorts in a wad, I DO believe success can be defined in many ways.  Winning an Olympic trials event is certainly a success, but so is placing in your age group or finishing a marathon, or running your first mile since high school, or maybe you define your success as leading a healthy lifestyle and getting some exercise with the local run club on the weekends.  The bottom line is Amy wanted to win this particular 10K and had the willingness to suffer and sacrifice to make that happen, in her training and obviously in this race.   You can see it in her face.  However you define success, I’ve come to know a few simple truths about the topic:

1- Real success requires stepping outside your comfort zone.

2- There are no handouts.  If you really want something, you have to get it.

3- If you want something bad enough, you won’t make excuses for why you can’t have it.

I’ve thought a lot about why some athletes have a willingness to go out in the elements for 2 hours of hill repeats while others think 30 minutes on the treadmill will accomplish the same thing.  Would that make the second athlete any less successful?  It depends on his or her definition of success.  I challenge you to look inside yourself and see if you really want to succeed or you just kinda want it.  If you really want it, when will you take the first step?  I can tell you that the above traits are very common in my successful athletes but not very common overall.   I can also tell you Amy’s uncanny ability to convey all this through a photo is truly amazing!

See you on the roads.
Thanks Amy!

Jeremy Wallace
2:51 marathoner
RRCA and USATF Certified Coach and Personal Trainer

USATF and RRCA Running Coach, Jeremy Wallace

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Running Long, Not Fast

Las Vegas Running Long Not Fast

Las Vegas Running Long Not FastBy: Melissa Farrell 

How many times have you gone out for your long run, only to look down at your watch and realize you’re running a PR pace?  Yeah, I think we’ve all made that mistake.  As runners, we sometimes get into a mentality that we need to ALWAYS be fast.  In trying to always BE fast, you aren’t allowing yourself to GET fast.

Long runs are one of the cornerstones of any running program, whether you’re training for a half marathon or a 50 miler.  One day of your run week is usually dedicated to a long run.  I think it might be helpful to understand the purpose of this run when you are trying to get those legs to slow down.  We all want to be fast-ER, but that 15 or 18 miler is not the time.

Let’s start with the fact that it is your LONG run.  It’s simple purpose is to get your body used to running long.  You can have all the speed in the world, but if your legs can’t carry you the full distance, what good is it?  This is a good time to think about your running form, your stride, your breathing, your nutrition, your weekly schedule, or why you decided to sign up for that 50 miler.  I can tell you that personally, this is one of my favorite runs in my program.  Maybe it’s because I can mentally distract myself or as some people say, maybe cause I’m just nuts!  I will say, to embark on a 50 mile run, there needs to be some level of crazy going on in here!

The longer runs will also help in strengthening your heart.  By having to work harder and longer to send oxygen to your legs, core, and upper body, the heart will over time become stronger and more efficient in completing this task.  Test it out.  Wear a heart rate monitor on one of your earlier long runs.  As you approach race day, try it again and see what the difference is.  You should notice that you have an easier time maintaining a moderate heart rate on stints that before may have caused it to increase.  Like your overall training, give it time and be patient and you will reap the benefits.  No good thing happens overnight, it takes time and perseverance just like your long run.

I’m sure most of you will love this fact, that the longer runs can help train your body to be better at utilizing fat as a fuel source.  I don’t care who you are, there is NO WAY you can eat enough the day before a 20 mile run to sustain yourself through its entirety.  There needs to be a level of efficiency in the way you use the energy you DO have stored, as well as the energy you are able to put in during your run. I can’t remember the last time I saw a runner out for an 18 miler chowing down on a loaf of bread.  it ain’t happening folks.  Be prepared by training your body for the conditions you will encounter on race day.

Long runs, just like tempo runs, track workouts, recovery runs, have their place in your training.  Try to use these runs for what they are meant for.  Talking with a few runner friends of mine, who also like longer distances, we decided that there needs to be an indicator light on your forehead that tells other runners what mile you are on.  This would help avoid that 1 mile power runner flying past you, only to find himself walking by mile 10.  Don’t feel like you need to race me during your tempo run, I’m on mile 17.  And remember, it’s not all about how fast you go, as long as you finish.  I’ll see you at the finish line!

Melissa Farrell
Co-Founder & Running Coach, Las Vegas Runners
Ultra runner & World Championship Duathlete

Melissa Farrell - Running Coach