The Most Important Step to Becoming a Great Runner

If you are any sort of a serious runner, you will eventually end up referring to the Book, The Lore of Running. This thousand page almanac from the training guru Tim Noakes contains a wealth of wisdom, everything from the running physiology and biochemistry, to the basics of training; from how to transfer training into racing, to guides to injuries and running health.


I wanted to understand more about how training affects the body in order to develop my own new 2009 training plan. The Lore of Running was the obvious place to find what I wanted.

So there I was one day, flicking through this phenomenal encyclopaedia, going through the steps involved to develop a solid training foundation. I was busy thinking of mileages and times, training and racing goals, when before I knew it I came across the final step, ‘Step Number 14’. I began to read it assuming that, like all the preceding steps, it would all be new to me, something I had never done before. Much to my surprise however this Step 14 I already knew, and had successfully practised and perfected.

Step 14 was Selfish Runner’s Syndrome. It went as follows, “Running can indeed become an extremely selfish activity… To put racing as the sole reason for living is inappropriate and ultimately detrimental to family life”.

Alarm bells were ringing. Flashbacks were flashing. I remembered all the arguments I’d had with my nearest and dearest. I thought of how I had spoilt nights out because I had training to do the next day or had had a tiring session already hours before hand. I recalled refusing weekends away because there was a race I wanted to attend. I thought of the weekend breaks I did turn up to, only to disappear in the middle of it for a solitary training run. Just like in an apparition, I saw and understood in an instance how my running took precedence over everything. The prognosis was clear: I was riddled with Selfish Runner’s Syndrome.

I was truly and utterly ashamed. I called my loved ones to tell them of my new discovery. “We tried to tell you” was their simple answer.

Since that day I have struggled against Selfish Runner’s Syndrome. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I still fail. I am fortunate though to have found that single page in a thousand lurking within the Lore of Running. Recognising this syndrome has allowed me to rearrange or even forego a race or a run, and has opened up in turn a whole new world of activities beyond my running fixation. I am fortunate too to have loved ones who still let me run and who are willing to work around me within reason.

My final good fortune is that, though there is no known cure, there are still some ways to lessen the effects of Selfish Runner’s Syndrome. As the Irish double Olympian, Noel Carroll, explains, “never complain of being tired; don’t always want to go home early on evenings out; don’t talk running all the time (have other topics of conversation); and always play down the importance of running in your life”.  

Now these are definitely things I need to include in my new training plan.  

2 thoughts on “The Most Important Step to Becoming a Great Runner

    1. You are so right Candice. Running can be so addictive that we don’t even realise sometimes what else is going on around us. Hope you are managing to find a good running-life balance, and good luck in all your marathon and ultra endeavours!

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