Running the system

In the immediate aftermath of any major event that I train for, I eat junk food and reflect. Post-Boston Marathon last year, I remember scaling new heights on both counts. The eating I am still working on, but to help my reflections I wrote a blog. So here goes….

The time we spent in Boston was an amazing experience. The positive support for the event, the 36,000 runners and the victims of last years horrendous bombings was unwavering and beyond any support I have ever experienced. The city was alive and kicking. It was emotionally charged and I have no doubt that contributed in part to a personal best time (at the time) of 3 hours 00 minutes and 26 seconds.

I am one of those people who believes that if you are undertaking one of these challenges, you need a system in place to support you. The system can consist of coaches, family, friends, doctors, personal trainers and the like. But these are only the obvious components. A system is much wider than just a team of people. It includes people, places, technologies, equipment, laws, norms and more. Think of the combination of the fan on the side of the road shouting encouragement, the owner of the healthy food place near your office, the rules of the event you are participating in, the GPS watch that tracks your runs, the motivational person you follow on twitter. You interact with and are impacted by these components in one way or another. They are part of and define your system.

But don’t think that your system is all about helping you, either. The easily accessed fast food place down the road from your house, the lengthy car journey to work, the stressful work environment, the local council digging up your park, the doubting family member. All of these are also part of your system and must be recognised as such, especially if you are seeking to change the system to your benefit.

As we all find out through the months of training for these types of event, the important part is the interactions between you and all of these components. Ideally you want the system to be fully supportive and aligned to your aims, providing you with endless time, resources, timely feedback and encouragement on each of the myriad of factors influencing your training and performance. But I can safely say, this is not going to happen, even for the pro’s. What world are you living in?

What we can hope to do is influence our existing system to our benefit, and that starts with recognising that we are actually part of a system, not acting alone and moving beyond an approach that focuses only on the immediate team of friends, family and specialists, towards a far more holistic approach that recognises the wider system that we live, train and perform within.

For me, the next challenge is Ironman New Zealand.  Writing this post has got me thinking about some of the changes am currently implementing and what adaptations I still need to make to the system I am a part of.

I could start with eating fewer timtams and ice cream… mmm!


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