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How one beginning runner built his confidence and ran two personal bests

Have you ever noticed that running seems to be entirely mental? Sure, the physical side of training is important. But your inner confidence is just as important!

Mark success story

You might have seen this quote:

“Long distance running is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” – Rich Davis

Rich is telling us that the mental side of running – your confidence, discipline, and drive – is often the difference between running strong or finishing a race thinking, “I know I could’ve done better!!” 

And I know how important confidence can be to running. I credit my inner psychology as the only reason I made the varsity cross country team at Connecticut College.

In 2005, just before my senior year of XC was about to begin, we had our annual fitness test: a grueling 2 x 3,000m workout that decided the varsity team.

My summer training had gone perfectly – weeks of 85 miles, hill workouts, barefoot strides, tempo runs, and more cycling and pool running than I care to remember. I was ready to perform and be among the top runners on the team.

When the first 3k interval began, our team shot off the line, eager to display our hard-earned summer fitness. I went through the first mile in 4:54 and soon surprised myself by tying for 2nd place for the first rep.

Not bad! But it’s easy to run fast for half of a workout. So after an easy ten minute jog, we started the second 3k interval. The first mile went by in 4:55 (this blew my mind at the time) and just a few minutes later, I crossed the line in first place!

I had secured my spot on the team by proving my fitness was where it needed to be – but more importantly, I proved to myself that I had the mental toughness to be one of the fastest runners on the team.

And that fitness test was much more mental for me than physical. Yes, running fast is hard. But it’s also challenging mentally – I needed the inner confidence to run to my potential.

Without believing in myself, I never would have ran that well. And I think all of us can benefit from greater mental resolve.

Confidence is so powerful that today I want to share Mark’s story – a beginning runner who needed to believe in his ability so he could run to his own potential.

If more inner confidence and faith in your abilities would help you reach more of your goals, you won’t want to miss SR’s latest success story.

“I wanted more”

Just over a year ago, Mark wouldn’t have considered himself a serious runner.  After losing a lot of weight, he made the commitment to run regularly and signed up for a half marathon to help him stay focused.

But what began as a dedication to maintaining a healthy weight was about to turn into a newfound passion.

Like thousands of other runners, Mark used a “stock” training plan he downloaded online.  And it got him to the finish line! But the only problem with a generic training plan is that Mark isn’t like thousands of other runners – he’s an individual with a unique fitness level, training history, injury background, and schedule.

As soon as Mark crossed the finish line from his first race, he knew that he wanted more than the online plan had to offer.

After completing my first half I wanted more.  I wanted to find a way to run better, faster and feel stronger.  I decided I wanted to run another half marathon even before I completed my first. But after completing my first half marathon I wanted something more than a generic training plan.

Although Mark was able to complete the race, he faced struggles with injuries (IT Band Syndrome sidelined him for four weeks) and his training lacked variety and strength exercises.

But he knew he needed to make changes. Mark knew there was a better way to train, but he was hesitant to spend money on a personal training plan.  There were so many freebies out there; how could he be sure that he was investing in someone and something worthwhile?

But after seeing other runners just like him (Joe, Rob, and Tim are just three examples) succeed and reading more advice on Strength Running, he realized that a custom training plan would take his running to the next level.

Mark told me:

After reading a lot of material I came to realize Jason provided honest and realistic advice that he tailored to the individual.  A training plan was worth the investment in myself to achieve my goals.

So he took a leap of faith and got his very own training plan – and what happened next quickly surprised him.

Intimidated… to confident and fast!

Mark admits that he was intimidated at first by his new training plan.  He wasn’t sure about all the workouts and long runs (but we worked together to make sure he understood every last detail).

As he worked through the program, he came to enjoy his long runs so much that he missed them during his taper leading into race day! Mark soon committed to the plan on all levels. He said:

I quickly learned to love the different strength exercises but also now I had two parts to my plan:

1. A clear focused plan on how to run faster for my next half marathon.

2. The confidence that my training was a graduated plan to slowly build me up to the final race.

Mark felt confident that he was headed in the right direction – both physically and mentally – to perform well at his second half.

And he never felt any lingering issues from his previous IT band syndrome injury!

Having a schedule that was tailored to Mark’s needs took the guesswork out of his training and made the daily workouts a simpler process.  He no longer had to make a decision every time he headed out the door – it was all laid out for him.

The plan gave me clarity in what to do, when to do it, with a sense of confidence it was helping me get stronger and faster. I knew it was designed to help me achieve my goals and I could tell I was getting strong and faster as I trained.

When race day arrived, Mark stood on the starting line with confidence.  He had put in the work and now it was time to enjoy the race and discover what he was capable of accomplishing.

And Mark’s investment in himself paid off in a big way: he finished his second half marathon in 1:52:15, a staggering 16 minutes faster than his previous PR of 2:08:40!

Can you imagine how it feels to run a new personal best by more than 16 minutes?

To know that you put in the work and deserve your big personal best – and that this is just the beginning?

If you don’t think it’s possible for you, I can show you proof that it’s possible.

Why was Mark successful?

Mark half marathon PR


Mark was thrilled with his accomplishment.  But he’s only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of achieving.  As he sets new goals he’ll continue to apply the lessons from his training plan:

I learned that training for a race is not just about hitting the road and running the same pace all the time. There is much more to running well than just running. My personalized plan helped me understand more about how to train and get stronger.

Mark was fortunate to gain this knowledge early in his running career and apply it immediately to his training.  Despite only running regularly for a little over a year, he has learned some valuable lessons that many runners spend years figuring out.

What enabled him to be so successful?

  • He set a goal and was prepared to put in the time and effort necessary to reach it
  • He invested in himself by getting a training plan designed for his unique goals, fitness level, injury background, and background
  • He learned the importance of training – not just running random workouts
  • He made time for his training and prioritized injury prevention

Mark made a commitment and followed through, and the results speak for themselves.

Mark now knows he has a plan to move forward, one that will continue to take him down the road to future success.

And he feels supported in his efforts.  Of all the lessons he learned while training for his half, perhaps the most important was gaining the confidence to push himself toward increasingly challenging goals:

For me the one last lesson is that this is only the beginning. I’ve planned next year’s races and each one is a stepping stone to getting better.

I now have new goals that I want to accomplish. With my PR Race Plan I have the backing of someone who is helping me achieve my goals.

Taking the guesswork out of your training – and building your confidence – are arguably just as important as the training itself.

Rather than wasting time and energy googling random workouts, Mark went to a coach he knew delivered results – and became SR’s latest success story (get even more inspiration here).

After earning a huge PR in his second half marathon, Mark set his sights on a 5k – and his training paid off yet again, earning him a persoanl best by nearly 3 minutes!  In a short race like the 5k, this is the difference between an 8:12 pace and a 7:24 pace per mile – an incredible improvement!

No matter what races Mark plans to tackle next year, more PRs undoubtedly await him.  With his positive outlook, commitment to learning, and unstoppable work ethic, the sky is truly the limit.

If you’d like to improve your confidence, get your own custom program and I’ll show you how to train to reach your potential.

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