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Published August 01 2011

Wagner: Summer of hard work can pay off come autumn

There’s a quote from legendary running coach Jack Daniels that recently hit me like one of those sayings we like to carry around with us, repeating when necessary, to carry us through the best and worst of times.

“There’s no such thing as a fluke good performance,” says Daniels, one of the most influential mentors of our sport.

In short, if you couldn’t do it, you wouldn’t.

That means you’ve earned each personal record.

The way Daniels explains it, we can either be optimists or pessimists about our running.

A good performance can be internalized, and repeated, to take your running to new heights. On the flip side, a bad race or workout should be externalized, and contributing factors – like injuries and the weather – must be considered as significant roles when we fail to meet our expectations.

And the right frame of mind is important, especially while training through the dog days of summer.

The heat and humidity we’ve experienced this summer perhaps isn’t the easiest to push through, but being persistent can lay the groundwork for fast times in the fall.

In my own personal journey, it’s been the rule: hard work in each of the past three summers – even when pace seems to suffer and one begins to wonder if there’s something horribly wrong – has resulted in setting new personal bests in October marathons.

Last fall, at the Chicago Marathon, my finishing time far exceeded my own expectations. It was a race, that when the depths of winter set in, I began wondering if my personal best would see a serious challenge again.

Was it a fluke performance?

Lots of miles and races this spring did little to regain my confidence. And then it happened.

On a day that didn’t seem particularly special or fateful, I finished 12 seconds short of my personal best, running a technically sound race on a tougher course. And I ran a negative split for the first time.

More importantly, it proved previous races – especially Chicago – were not flukes. It renewed my confidence and hope for future races.

One year ago, I wasn’t aware of Coach Daniels’ running truism. Now, I am a believer.

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Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@forumcomm.com.