8 steps to achieve your wildest (running) dreams

I read about John-Paul Flintoff’s model in Knack, with 8 steps to change the world.  The purpose of his model seemed quite useful to me, so I wondered if we can apply this model to the question how to achieve your wildest running dreams?

1. “Shut up the negative committee in your head“. StrongerThat’s the first step, and as such the most important one. We elimate much of our own potential by statements like “I am too old for this”, “I am not in great athletic shape, and I will never be”, “I don’t have time for these training schedules”, etc.

However, as mr. Lodewijk van Gruuthuuse (15th century) had it mentioned on his portraits: “Plus est en vous – Meer is in u” (“there is more in you”) !

2. Once the negative committee in your head has been told to shut up, you have to figure out what it  is, that you want to achieve.Dreams Flintoff recommends this: try to be aware of the stories you tell to your family, your friends, etc.  Are you really passionate about a topic? Which moments in the past gave you a lot of energy, and gave you a clear sense of purpose ?

Sidenote: on the professional side of things, I warmly recommend Nick Williams book, “The Work We Were Born To Do“: great reading !

If you’re a runner: what would be your wildest dream if you do not take into account any (self-imposed) limitations?

After a (modest) number of marathons, I’m not so sure what would my “dream”. A “Sub 3” marathon? The negative committee in my head has decided that this will never happen (“My VO2 Max  is much too low for this”, and 31 other reasons).

What I find really, really fascinating is ultraruns, but that’s almost too scary to think about, therefor I did not not even think of submitting this idea to the committee.

3. Third step is to make the objective specific. For many runners, this is easy & natural to do: “I want to run the London Marathon on 24 April 2016, which is 167 days from now, and I want to run this race in 3 hours, 24 minutes, and 21 seconds”. Simple, no?

PIf your dreams dont scare youerhaps there is more to it? Yes, objectives should be specific, but for many runners (including myself), the short term target may be clear  (the next race), but the long-term target is much harder to nail down. Many (most ?) runners have no objectives at all, they just enjoy the experience, and are very happy about it. Food for thought. In my own experience: if I don’t set targets, I get lazy.

More importantly, are clear & specific (short term) targets not getting in the way of longterm, wild dreams, I mean the kind of : “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough” ?

4. Once the objective is clear & specific: it’s time to ask yourself, what are the first, small steps in the right direction? 1000 stepsThis I found really interesting in the model: in order to be successful, you should start taking the first steps very soon in the process, i.e. within 24 hours after setting your target.

These can be very small, tiny little steps. The recommendation is to make a list with many, perhaps small steps that will get you going, cfr. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step“.

5. Next. In order to sustain your first steps, you need to ask yourself: what do I need in order to succeed? For runners, there’s not a lot of money & equipment needed, hurray!

Your mindJust a pair of decent running shoes,  and there you go?

However, in the Flintoff model, “what do you need” also relates to skills, capabilities, emotional strenghts, etc.

I guess for running, that’s even more important than your running shoes?

6. Quite often, there is only so much you can do on your own. So the next step is setting up your Team. Fast vs FarAt first, I thought this one does not apply to running. But then I thought about it again: your partner needs to deal with your weird life, your family has to deal with the oddities that come with it, and if you belong to a running club, that’s a kind of Team, no?

Strange as it may sound, but the Team work in running is really important.

Cfr. this quote : “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together“.

7. Step 7 is a real challenge: how can you make achieving your target more attractive? Back to number 6: by running together with other runners? Yes, that really works, for me. And also: listening to music during difficult training sessions, that also works for me. When I thought about this one, so many things came up. There are so many things you can do to make your training sessions easier, nicer, and something to look forward to. Running in a green environment, allowing you to run and enjoy nature. Or, spoiling yourself with nice, good-looking gear?

What else do you do to make your training sessions more attractive?

8. And then there’s number 8 in the model. Easy. It’s time for Action. As a final warning, once you get going, things can go wrong. Accept it. By engaging in the quest to achieve your wildest (running) dreams, you will take decisions, right or wrong, and you will take risks. See it as an adventure, and enjoy the trip!


Peter De Groof







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