Escape from Markham Asylum

Previously on Overtrained and Under-tapered, I blogged about how I was planning on moving to London in 2011. Well, here I am. I packed up my clothing and a big pile of shoes (along with some other essentials, like DVDs) and moved out to London, Ontario. I have been excited about this move for a long time, as it is an important step that will enable me to train better. And preserve my sanity.

I’m sure I have mentioned the reasons for my relocation in previous blogs. I’ve explained that I wanted to be part of the great training group we have out here and such. But besides these reasons, I simply needed to get out of Markham. In Markham I was constantly training alone and it was making me a bit crazy. It wasn’t terrible during cross country season, because the weather was nice enough for me to run the limited trails that Markham offers, because I had immediate goal races, and of course, because I made the occasional trip out to London. Yet when cross country season ended and winter set in, most of these motivating factors vanished. I was left with the cold, harsh reality of battling uncomfortable temperatures and frigid winds alone in the dark. And I hated it. It was a constant struggle to get out for a run. Even with regular communication with my coach, a training program, and mileage targets, I found it difficult to adhere to the schedule when I was on my own.

Back when I was in Kingston I faced similar conditions (cold, wind, and poorly-ploughed sidewalks), but I was able to carry on because I had training partners (well, most of the time, anyway). Even last year when I wasn’t racing indoors and was coming off of an injury with no races in sight for months, I was incredibly motivated because I ran with the team regularly. In the absence of a good training group in Markham, I left to join one in London. I’ve only done a few workouts thus far, but it is much easier to get out the door twice a day when I know that I have training partners to run with. Even on some of my solo morning runs, living with other runners keeps me accountable and helps me take those crucial first steps outside. It is difficult to make excuses when one interacts with one’s coach and teammates on a daily basis.

A subject that often arises in my discussions with Steve is the reason why so many distance runners leave the sport after university or continue running, but merely on a recreational basis. Surely there are countless reasons for this drop-off, but one important factor is that many athletes go from an ideal training environment in university to a less-than-ideal training environment as a post-collegiate. As such, runners who lack a good training group in their post-collegiate years may lose the motivation they need to train at a high level and consequently end their days as competitive distance runners. After my troubled December and early January, I can certainly relate. I moved to London because it offers the opportunity to go back to a university team-style setting – just like during my time at Queen’s, I now live with other runners, I meet my friends and teammates for workouts on a regular basis, and am I able to better structure my life around getting my training in.

The club system can offer such opportunities for post-collegiate athletes by creating an environment similar to that of a university team. A great part of Speed River’s success has been the club’s ability to get a good-sized group of like-minded post-collegiate runners training together, just as a university team would. Other clubs with post-collegiate programs will be successful based on their ability to take the best elements of a university varsity team setting and emulate them within the club system. Hopefully, this will mean larger numbers of distance runners training in Canada and eventually lead to greater depth in Canadian distance running.

Of course, this process is a two-way street. Clubs can strive to create great training environments, but it cannot happen without motivated runners who want to train hard after university and make the commitment necessary to be competitive. Post-collegiate groups need individuals who want to make this vision a reality to join in order to build a successful program, which will in turn draw more runners in. Training with a club throughout the summer while in university and returning to the club after university needs to become the norm for distance runners. In doing so, we can build a culture of long-term commitment to the sport. One of my regrets is that I never trained with a club or competed in summer track during my time in university. Doing so would likely have eased my transition from university competition to post-collegiate competition. After university, it became rapidly apparent to me that I couldn’t do this on my own, so I decided to become a part of a training group that will continue to build a successful post-collegiate program. Here in London, we are bringing together dedicated individuals, great coaching, excellent facilities, and support from Runners’ Choice and New Balance. Hopefully, this will bring more post-collegiate runners from the London area into the club and allow our senior program to grow.

Again, the growth of our post-collegiate group depends on whether or not there are individuals who wish to continue to train after university. We can build a great program, but it cannot become a great group if no one actually wants to train hard and be competitive as a post-collegiate runner. The same goes for any senior group across the country. So, give the following question some thought:

What are you doing after university?

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2 Responses to Escape from Markham Asylum

  1. jtlinmtl says:

    Great post. It’s a big question for a lot of runners, and a tough one because there’s really a big abyss out there after the last CIS. Great to see the group in London joining Speed River and the groups out west in providing an opportunity for committed athletes. Hey, committed…maybe you haven’t left the asylum after all…

  2. Pingback: Start List/Liste de Départ: Reid out of London and other “failures” « Montreal Endurance

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