I’ve come across some jaw-dropping statements on Facebook; one theme particularly bothers me. These are posts to the effect of – 

“I hope I finish.”

“I haven’t run more than 6 miles but I know I will finish. I hope my IT band/hamstring/.. will be ok.”

“I hope I’m not swept.”

“I hope I break xx:xx time.”

Perfectly normal sentences from nervous athletes, similar to those I myself have made plenty of. But these statements that bothered me came with a caveat – none of them had trained for their distance/time! And they hoped for the best.

The “Hope Training Plan”

I call this the “Hope Training Plan” – where you ignore the reality of the challenge facing you and HOPE that everything works out. (The Hope Training Plan applies not only to races, but also to all kinds of things – I hope that I loose weight, I hope that I get faster, I hope that I get the promotion at work, I hope that I can travel, I hope that …)

If you have decided to take on this distance (and no distance is small – whether is be a 5k or a marathon or a triathlon), think back to WHY you decided on it? Was it because you had personal goals of distance or time, or a bucket list item, or because friends were doing it, or … ? Whatever the reason, remember the why.

And most of the times you’ll find that the why is not a checkbox to say that you completed a marathon/triathlon. Your WHY will not have you following the Hope Training Plan.

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Make a Plan. And Follow it. 

When you take on an endurance event, it is not just the moment of crossing the finish line that changes you. It is the entire journey leading up to it. The months and sometimes even years of sweat and hard work. Each of those training days changes you for the better. The final moment of crossing the finish line is only validation of the changes that has taken place within you.

Don’t deny yourself the months of positive changes to yourself. 

Hope is not a Training Plan

Don’t confuse Mental Toughness 

There is a common theme of mental toughness in the athletic world. That point where you WILL your body to go more than your body is ready for. Every athlete needs that mental toughness, whether they are elite or casual. But that doesn’t mean that you WILL your body to run a (half)marathon when you haven’t trained for it!! 

Your “mental toughness” (yes, I have it in quotes because I think its not just showing up on race day. If I don’t have the discipline to put in the months of training effort, I don’t think I can completely quantify it as mental toughness), may get you to the finish line sore and tired and may earn applauds from those who admire your determination in getting to the finish line, but at what cost?

Hello, injuries! Hello, bad performance! Hello, plummeting of confidence! Mental toughness follows when you are physically conditioned to handle it. Not just by willing your body and mind to go on.

Hope is not a Training PlanHOPE might have brought you on to this path (My start goal was – I hope that I can finish my first half marathon). 

But Hope is not a Strategy. Your actual strategy is a training plan and FOLLOWING the training plan. 

And with the training comes confidence in yourself. And that will carry you triumphantly through to the finish.

 Yes, there are ninjas who *can* do a marathon signing up just a week or two before. Or the ninjas that waltz through an Ironman or 70.3 on bare basic training – I know of quite a few of these and love and envy them. My point is to the majority of the “normal” population.

And before anyone can accuse me of taking a holier than thou attitude, I’ve been guilty of the Hope Training Plan in the past. One very painful 13.1 Atlanta comes to mind – I had been doing CrossFit and I “hoped” that my 6 mile long runs and CF would be enough for this very hilly course. Sure, I completed the race but I was easily dropped at mile 5.5 and never recovered. Lesson learnt. 

Have you ever used the Hope Training Plan? For races or in other areas of life? 


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Hope is Not a Strategy
  • Because I’m someone who loves training much more than racing, this post really speaks to me. I am amazed at how many runners I meet at group runs who don’t follow training, run when they feel like it, and hope to do well at their race. It seriously boggles my mind! I’ve also met runners who frequently have great races with no training. Who knows why that happens, but like you said, that’s not the norm.

  • Chaitali Shah

    I hate when I see statements like that too. I worry that’s how people hurt themselves! And while I don’t always follow my training plan perfectly, I still put in the time to train enough that I never worry I’m going to be swept or not finish. I might not make my time goals, but that’s different since some of that depends on race day conditions too.

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