Originally written for Sydney Morning Herald Sun Run which is on Saturday, February 6, 2016
From a school kid around grass ovals to the heights of the Olympic Games running is second nature to Courtney Atkinson who is on the way to creating history to become the first Australian triathlete to race at 3 Olympic Games this year in Rio. Running is not only his day job but also his favourite way to de-stress.
“Even though I am training for the Olympics, the highest level of sport, the real motivation for me to keep coming back day after day and running is to feel that freedom”
Courtney believes the main key to running success and therefore improving fitness is consistency. It doesn’t matter what level you are at or what your running goal is. Being consistent regularly on your legs will outweigh all the tricks and trends and complicated programs out there.
If you’re that person thinking “I can’t run” or “it’s just out of my reach” then think again! Need some motivation to start from scratch? I recommend using the ‘5K Runner’ mobile app which is designed to take you from couch potato to run 5k continuous over an 8 week program based on gentle progression of walk/jog/run while listening to your favourite tunes. From there nothing is stopping you use that simple progression to conquer your ultimate goal distance and more importantly working towards the Sun Run 7km or 10km.
The fast way to finish is to start at a pace you can maintain for the 7km or 10km Sun Run course. I have a golden rule for the start: If you think you’re going too hard you are. If you think you are running the correct pace, you’re still probably going too fast. If it feels comfortable to begin with, that’s the feeling you’re aiming for. I guarantee it’ll get hard towards the end of the race.
Don’t think about how far there is to finish. Break the race down into smaller goals. When the going gets tough I like to count ten steps on my right leg then 10 on the left concentrating on making each step as technically good as I can. 20 steps quickly becomes a few hundred without noticing and before long you close in on the finish.
Eat & Drink.
If all else fails strategically and your focus is to cross the finish line, then just remember to take on additional energy during the race to help you push through. I grab water & a Red Bull at the aid stations on course when I know that the finish line is on the horizon. Also remember to hydrate before the race as it can still be hot come mid-February.
3 RUNNING TIPS:
1. Look at a point on the ground at least 10m in front instead down at your feet. You will naturally run taller, smoother and more efficient. Minimise the bounce. Imagine you are floating across the ground instead of landing heavy onto pavement.
2. Aim to have the ankles of a ballerina. Flexible but strong to spring across the ground.
3. Aim to keep the trunk of the body stable and still while running. We use our arms for momentum but not at the expense of tensing the shoulders. Increasing core strength and hip stability is a straightforward way to improving running speed and ability to hold a given pace for longer.
More from Courtney on competing in the Sun Run at ‘Run With Sole’ podcast: RWS23 Heath Francis – Released13 December 2015