Before I broke my neck I ran cross-country for Cornwall and my best result was in Exeter Road Race, in which I came eighth out of a few hundred people. This was 25 years ago. I always wanted to run the London Marathon with my stepdad, it was an ambition and I had no doubt it was going to happen one day. Of course, that particular “one day in the future” never came and now it never will.
After joining Twitter in January this year, I soon caught on to some of the great motivators there, and especially the great motivational authors. Bruce Van Horn was a name that kept cropping up, and I often saw retweets about his marathon training book ‘You Can Go the Distance!’ As he was seen as a great motivator and the book was on special offer at 99p I thought…why not?
Well for a start, the full title is ‘You Can Go the Distance! Marathon Training Guide: Advice, Plans and Motivation for All Runners’ – which might lead you to think I am not exactly the target market. But I don’t think Amazon have a book called ‘You Can Go the Distance! Just make sure your wheelchair is fully charged.’
So here I am paralysed in an electric wheelchair reading about becoming a marathon runner, 25 years too late. Now I cannot tell you if the techniques work or whether it would give anybody the ability to run a marathon but this is what I took away from it.
I love helping people find their desires and set goals, help them to devise action plans that will achieve the things they didn’t think they could ever have. This book taught me to break things down – of course we all know this in principle, but we very seldom break down a single task that would normally extend over several hours. If one of your tasks or actions is going to take four hours, instead think of it as 8×30 minutes. That’s instantly better.
It also reinforced my belief in taking breaks, and my view that it’s okay to pat yourself on the back occasionally. When you manage to accomplish something or reach a goal (for me it would be a whole chapter in a book, for a marathon runner it would be a long run), then sit back and enjoy the achievement for a while. This is important because just as muscles heal, recuperate and grow while at rest, so does the mind. Many people believe they have bad memories, which is not true; they just don’t use their memory enough for it to grow and become stronger. This is called neuroplasticity, where your brain will adapt and change to become best at what you do most. This is why talent is often misattributed as being genetic, when in fact that ignores and belittles the amount of time and effort truly talented people put in over the years. Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent.
My own book “The Moving Road” is about finding your goal and embarking on your journey to get there – it has so many similarities to running a marathon that I could write a dozen metaphors off the top of my head right now – but you get the gist.
Bruce’s book gives a very detailed breakdown of what you should and shouldn’t do on race day, which translated into my life is a public speaking event: no matter what happens, you shouldn’t change your plans. You have prepared a routine, it is what you know and what you have grown comfortable with. It might not work out, it might have not been the best plan – but it doesn’t mean we cannot learn from it!
I skipped the chapter about new shoes because my shoes last for years, sometimes even with the price sticker on the bottom – and they go out of fashion before they look a week old. But whether you’re a runner or a writer you need to be comfortable, because you cannot focus on your daily actions if you are not comfortable.
This review ended up as more of an article! Well, anyway. The one thing that become more apparent to me in the past 12 months is to read, read, and read more – read anything, even if you’re not sure how relevant it is to you. There is nearly always something you can learn. There’s a brilliant little tip in Bruce’s book about music tempo. I use that one myself – it helps my own personal exercise routine a lot.
‘You Can Go the Distance’ was easy to read and to the point. I found it simple to follow and understand, even with absolutely no knowledge of running. If you want to be a runner of any distance this is your handbook.
Now here is the question: should I read up on how to play football next?
Get a copy of Bruce Van Horn book below.