Patience is essential to the long run.
As I ran down the spiral ramp on the Lamar footbridge and considered how many miles I had left, I thought about how I got where I was, running 14 miles on a Saturday just because. It's been a long road, figuratively and literally, and the extended time involved is, I think, why it works.
To accomplish great things, you need to be patient, and this is not an area of my life where I excel. When I really want something, I tend to throw myself in headfirst. The trouble is, this can lead to injury in running and burnout in all other aspects of life. What I should do is ease myself in and gradually work up to the extreme level at which I want to participate. Normally, I'm terrible about this.
Saturdays test my patience more than any other day of the week. For 12 weeks out of every year, this is mostly due to the Notre Dame football team, but recently there have been other events that push my limits. First, there are my long runs, which require me to maintain a steady pace for an extended period of time. Then we have dog training classes, which are going very well, but you can't expect results too quickly, and, well, I do. Plus, with all our extra weekend activities, we spend a lot more time in the car, and driving in Austin is never a picnic. No, Saturdays are not good for my level of patience.
However, this month has been a big change for me. Even though I'm running every day, I'm not trying to make any specific pace goals (other than my speed work days). Since I don't have a race looming on the horizon, I have no reason to push myself above and beyond my current level of fitness. Predictably, doing a slow accumulation of miles has created a much higher level of fitness than running myself to exhaustion ever did.
I'm realizing now that this is the most essential bit of information that I could share with someone who wants to be a better runner: you must be patient. Not only do you have to take the time and make the effort, but you also need to accept that the improvement may not happen as quickly as you want. Trust in the wisdom of those who have done this longer than you (by which I mean coaches, authors and people with various degrees, not me). Find your limits and exceed them, but not by too much, too quickly.
Patience in life is a virtue. Patience in running is essential.