Look at the best way to get a PB (Personal Best, for the non-runner reader who somehow would have by some mysterious way landed on this blog) and you’ll find dozens of books, articles, websites, blog posts, coaches, dietitians, pseudo-gurus telling you how to do it (and ideally charging you a hefty fee for it).
Look now at how to get a Personal Worst, or PW, and you are left figuring it out all on your own. There is no way round it, when it really does matter, people are selfish and keep their secrets for themselves. Well, since I have today become a (admittedly self proclaimed) expert on the topic, I thought I would be a sport (ah ah) and share my newly acquired wisdom. For free - that’s how cool I am.
The first, almost unavoidable thing is that you need to have kid(s). One is OK, several is much better. Then you need at least one, but again, ideally several, of the following ingredients:
- Your kid starting school and being not quite ok yet with the idea. As a result, he will wake up several times a night, because he wants to pee, or the wolf is trying to eat his belly, or a truck has waken him up, or he wants to see the stars, or he just wants you to sleep next to him, or him next to you (the order does matter, as the result will be the same: you won’t sleep). Since he will wake up several times a night, so will you. The main difference between you and him is that he will (most of the time) quickly get back to sleep (until he wakes up again, that is), but you won’t.
- That’s when having a second kid comes handy. Should N°1 fail to throw a tantrum in the middle of the night, N°2 will volunteer to help and decide to wake up, say, around 3am, when you find it most difficult to fall asleep again, and ideally the night before the race. If, like our N°2, she usually never wakes up at night, even better: it adds mental destabilization to your feeling of immense physical tiredness.
- Make sure you choose children whose weak point is ENT. That way N°1 has a runny nose after half a day of school despite the fact he has not been ill for the past two (spent at home) months, N°2 follows two days later, and dutifully makes sure you end up ill as well. Except that, unlike your children who seem to get better in less than a week, you end up, three weeks later and on the eve of the race, still ill, still not able to breathe properly, which –isn’t that weird - is less than optimal for running.
- Oh, and make sure you’re still breastfeeding too, so that you can’t take any medicine to help getting rid of that cold. And by “not any”, I mean just that. The nose spray the pediatrician gave N°2, which you (clearly naively) thought made it safe for you to take (if she inhales it directly, it should be ok to get a micron of it in breast milk, right?), reads on the notice : “avoid taking while breastfeeding”. Homeopathy? Shame that what is most efficient for colds is also what works best if ever you want to dry her only source of food, your boobs, out…
For good measure, start your business at the same time kids are starting school and day care and are ill. That way, even if you had a bit of time and energy left for any training runs, you’ll make sure these are the shortest runs and best junk miles you’ve ever done.
Also, do NOT do any specific training such as speed work, intervals or tempo runs. And to make sure you stick to this plan even though you may be tempted to train properly, make sure that you almost only have time for runs after the kids are in bed and it is pitch black outside and you live in the countryside with no street lighting but plenty of crazy drivers. If you can live somewhere mountainous with no flat stretch longer than a few yards, even better : it is the worst terrain to train for a flat 10K.
Of course, you can try for a PW even if you’re child-free. But let’s face it, sticking to the plan will be harder. You may for instance try to go out every single night for three weeks prior to the race to make sure you’re a wreck. You may lock your running shoes for the same period so that you don’t get any proper training done in the hope your legs will feel like lead on race day. But let’s face it, you’re very likely to cave in to the runner’s most basic instincts, and sooner rather than later start getting enough sleep, eat healthily again and start lacing up your running shoes to sneak one in every other day. That’s where having kids comes handy, as a kid is the best – as in, toughest - personal trainer, who will show no pity and unlimited personal commitment when it comes to helping you achieving your goal of a PW.
Still doubtful? Still in need of some evidence the recipe works? Wait until the next episode, where, strictly for the benefit of science, I put the method to test…