My Problem With Running, and How I Overcame It: How I “Got My Goat”

I’ve never been a runner. I’ve been an athlete since I could walk, and I never shied away from working hard at practices, games, or conditioning. However, I’ve never been a runner, and never been good at the things the Army likes its Soldiers to be good at. I sucked at bodyweight movements other than push-ups or sit-ups. Obstacle courses have always been hard for me. That led to me feeling like I was way behind the power curve every time I went to a school. Instead of letting it defeat me, I decided that I would take ownership of my weaknesses and find a way to make them into strengths. The opportunity came when I deployed. What better time to work on what those in CrossFit call our ‘goat’? I decided to tackle the problem of being a crappy runner, and here’s how I did it.

I did not start too fast. I know people have a tendency to overdo it. The first thing I did was send in my registration for the Army Ten Miler shadow race at Balad. I sent it in June, and the race was in October. After that, I said “Oh, sh** just got real”, and sat down to make a training plan. I took my knowledge of conditioning, fitness, and weightlifting and made what turned out to be a good plan for me.

Our compound was walled in and a half mile around the parking area. Since I wasn’t scared of incoming aircraft, I decided this would be a better place to train than running down the streets of the base (especially since I worked night shifts). With my goal of three run days, I planned the first day to be HIIT training over the course of 3 total miles (with warm up and cool down); the second day to be a tempo run (started at around 2 miles but increased with my long runs each week, where I topped out here around 7 or 8 miles); and the third day to be a long, slow run (started with 3 miles but ended up at half marathon distance). I added around 10% of my long run distance to itself each week, building slowly and not rushing my improvement.

My weightlifting plan was endurance-based. I did around 2 days per week and split my body parts worked between the two, doing legs and abs each time. The program I did was called 100s, and for each exercise you do, do one set of 100 reps. You are allowed to rest, but only 1 second per remaining rep. This led to me getting stronger and better for the APFT, and didn’t overwhelm my body since my goal was running, not powerlifting. I found it to suit my running goals and complement them very well.

Throughout the journey; I lost 30 pounds, didn’t have to get taped for the first time in my career, ran the Army Ten Miler and a half marathon before leaving Iraq, ran a half marathon on a treadmill (and will never do that again), got into races (including my 10k best of just under 44 minutes), and did well enough on the APFT to earn the Physical Fitness Excellence badge (which never officially got awarded to me, but I was still happy to score high enough to know I could have earned it).

Final Thoughts: Instead of letting a problem defeat me, I found a way to overcome it. It took a lot of time and sweat, however, I also know I am not at that level anymore. I do feel empowered knowing that I can implement that plan again and see success. What problems have you overcome? I would like to hear about it in the comments.

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11 thoughts on “My Problem With Running, and How I Overcame It: How I “Got My Goat””

  1. It gave me great pleasure to read this article. Great job Candace! Life is just too short not to at least try to defeat those little things inside of us that tells us we cannot do something. I have always been the type of person that wants to go after those things that others tell me I can’t do, but the most difficult part is going after the things I have told myself I cannot do. You gave me inspiration with this post. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Greg! Life is too short, I agree. And the distinction you made between going after what others tell you you can’t do, versus what you tell yourself you can’t do…that is so true. It’s easy for me to prove others wrong. To prove myself wrong…well, that is the hardest thing to do.

  2. Great advice! I think the slow, steady, methodical approach can work for tackling just about any project, no matter how daunting or overwhelming it may seem. A few years ago I made the mistake of training for a long-distance run by dedicating all of my running time to the treadmill – that’s a mistake I won’t be repeating anytime soon! Running a marathon has been a life-long goal of mine, but the training part has always been a stumbling block. I’m going to adopt your training advice, including the weight training for increased endurance and stamina. Who knows, there might even be a triathlon in my future, and I’ll have your words of experience to thank for inspiration.

    1. Thank you Rachel, and I look forward to hearing more about your progress. Have you entered any races? How is your training going? Unfortunately I am not running at all right now. I have been enjoying cross training, but I know I need to get back into running very soon.

  3. Nice article, Candace. First, I’ve noticed throughout your articles, that you have some awesome leadership skills, many of which you demonstrated through improving your running. Your attitude rocks, and you set a steadfast example of your philosophy.

    Second, your workout plan is impressive. I’m rather knowledgeable about physical fitness and working out myself, and your assessment of your weaknesses and your strengths, as well as using that information to formulate a personalized training plan, is exemplary. The fact that it was dramatically successful is icing on the cake. Nice job!

    I find the strengths-based approach to be the most effective problem-solving method in many arenas. It’s one reason I like team work, because everybody has weaknesses and strengths, and working together as a team maximizes strengths and minimizes weaknesses. I have also found this approach to be great when working with kids, particularly when trying to solve behavior issues.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind compliments, Amy. I appreciate the feedback. I always have to be conscious of my weaknesses, because physically I am not the Army’s ideal specimen. It is always a work in progress, and I will never stop trying to improve myself!

  4. From one “running sucks” man to the next, I like this article, Chuck. Running is just not something that I enjoy doing…. PERIOD. I played football, wrestled, etc. and I am conditioned that way. It has nothing to do, cardiovascular wise, for me… I just hate it. Like you said though, the Army wants you to be good at it and well…you kinda have to be. So, I also had to find an approach that supported my efforts to get better. I liked your approach, especially starting small and developing a GAME PLAN. Most guys just figure if they run more they’ll get better…not always true. Either way, I think the only thing I will enjoy is when I hang up my boots and won’t have to run anymore…

    1. This is Candace’s article, but I feel the same way that you do. I was a wrestler in high school and I have NEVER enjoyed running. Now that I’m a civilian, I run very little. During my time in, I did it so I could pass the APFT, but I never liked running!

    2. Justin,
      A game plan is key. I find that thinking about just the big goal can get overwhelming, especially with something that is hard for me. If I think about it in terms of what I have to do each day, it is much less overwhelming and I am much more likely to complete it. It’s easier to say “Today I have to do sprint intervals” as opposed to “In a month I have to run a half marathon”…huge difference there!

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