Bits & Pieces: For Runners, Happiness Is Ergogenic

In the history of women’s running, former marathon record holder Ingrid Kristiansen of Norway is a towering figure.

Former marathon world record holder Ingrid KristiansenThirty years ago, she won London, Boston, and New York, while simultaneously holding world records at 5000m (14:37.33), 10,000m (30:13.74) and the marathon (2:21:06).

At a time when many elites were succumbing to the temptation to take shortcuts in their training, running lower mileage and doing more speedwork, Kristiansen stuck by the approach that worked best for her. It was all based on building a hefty aerobic base, with most miles run at 7:00 to 7:30 pace. Kristiansen raced short distances for sharpening.

This is from an Athletics Illustrated interview with Kristiansen by Christopher Kelsall:

CK: You ran at least 18 marathons where you finished top-four. What was the key to you running the marathon so well, so many times?

IK: I think the key is to have fun both during your training before the marathons and of course having fun during the race. I train well all year and like to do all kinds of work… The most important thing I think was that I competed in many different surfaces, running cross-country, on road and on track at high level (Word Championships) distance from 3,000m up to the marathon. This allowed me to have more fun and the training was varied before the different competitions.

My Thoughts

Ingrid leads a training group for beginning runners, 2013. Still joyful after all these years. Click to enlarge.
Ingrid leads a training group for beginning runners, Norway 2013. Still joyful after all these years. Click to enlarge.

If Ingrid Kristiansen’s belief that fun and success go together is right, maybe we runners should pay attention to how our training makes us feel, as well as how it improves our fitness.

Kristiansen isn’t the only elite to notice the energy-enhancing effects of good feelings.

Frank Shorter believed we get better results from our training when we run in places where we enjoy it.

Bill Rodgers did virtually all his training on a 2.5-mile loop around a lake near his home – not merely because it was convenient, but because he believed the good feelings he got while running in nature gave him a real competitive advantage.

Kristiansen was known for her sunny disposition and her enthusiasm for helping other runners. Whether her positive demeanor increased the value of each training mile, it surely didn’t hurt.

2 thoughts on “Bits & Pieces: For Runners, Happiness Is Ergogenic”

  1. Hi Brad – In Shaun Achor’s amazing book The Happiness Advantage he presents a ton of evidence on how happy feelings improve performance. I think you’d really enjoy that book – most libraries have it. I think it’s so important that I plan to add a chapter about this research to The Joyful Athlete before it’s “officially” published in April. – Best wishes, George

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