Running is a sport defined by relative success, and each race and training activity is a microcosm of this fact. One runner might be trying to break 15 minutes in a 5k, while another could simply be attempting to finish a three-mile run without stopping – but both goals, if achieved, may yield the same level of accomplishment. This notion reflects running’s inherent accessibility, which is a beautiful aspect of the sport, but it can also make it difficult to establish an appropriate, worthwhile training regimen conducive to improvement. 


The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all method for improving one’s running ability, but fortunately, there are several broad considerations that can help facilitate a runner’s unique version of development and success. 

Knowing Yourself

Self-awareness is perhaps the most crucial value in running. By recognizing the implications of their physical and mental advantages and constraints, a runner can more easily find their bearings and build an effective training plan around these elements. This process expands to a runner’s experience level and biomechanical considerations. If, for instance, the runner is fairly new to the sport and has a predisposition to knee issues, this may inform a more conservative start to training – as well as the use of orthotics or braces to mitigate injury and promote supportive muscular development. Training should include extended periods of pushing boundaries, but self-awareness allows runners to know when to implement certain limitations (off days, cross-training sessions, etc.) as a healthy countercurrent. 

Emphasizing Well-being

Health and well-being go hand-in-hand with running ability, with both positive and negative aspects of the former often bleeding into the latter. Runners with impeccable sleep, diet, and hydration habits are likely to excel during a race or training activity – while those forgoing these factors may experience avoidable physical woes compounding the running’s inherent discomfort. Overtraining also falls into this spectrum (running too fast every day, doing an unnecessary amount of weekly mileage, doing too many runs in a single day, etc.), so it’s paramount for runners to stick to their prescribed boundaries and keep their physical stability front of mind. 


There are anomalies, however; some runners are simply unaffected by getting poor sleep or eating too closely to a race, while others may shudder at the mere suggestion of doing either. These limits boil down to the aforementioned process of being self-aware: know what works and stick to it (though, be sure to always prioritize baseline health where objectively necessary). 

Keeping Perspective

Success can change throughout a runner’s life, fluctuating in tandem with aging, injury, course terrain, illness, weather, and many other variables. Therefore, like self-awareness, proper perspective is vital. Runners’ overarching goals should be a training north star of sorts, but they must also be malleable if necessary. For example, if a marathon runner enters race day facing unseasonably hot temperatures or a sporadic last-minute injury, they may have to settle for an equivalent version of success based on those inevitable factors. Committing this mindset to habit makes it easier to reflect on less-than-ideal races without spiraling into self-consciousness or pessimism. 


At its core, running success is synonymous with consistency, healthy living, and mental equilibrium. Regardless of background, body type, or experience level, runners can expect to meet their relative form of success by aligning these values and remembering why they do the sport to begin with: because it’s challenging, invigorating, and fun.