Jeremy Côté


The Secret

It’s not what most people want. It’s indeed there, but the truth of the secret would frustrate people. There is no quick fix. The secret isn’t a shortcut to a faster time, a better race. There is no such thing. If you want to be the best, you have to be capable of willing yourself to move faster than anyone else in the race.

That’s why the secret is so misleading. It is natural to assume that the secret has something to do with running faster in workouts. After all, that’s what makes us faster, right? We are a consequence of the workouts we do, and so more (and faster) workouts should increase our performance. Unfortunately, that’s not quite true.

We can convince ourselves that we are just so close, if only we ran some faster workouts. That we are at a precipice, just waiting to take a leap into the great unknown. All that is needed is to know the secret.

Do you want to know it?

Of course you do. But, once again, I must warn you that you’ll be disappointed. It’s probably not what you think, and I don’t want to be responsible for a letdown. Nonetheless, you wanted to know, so I’m going to tell you. The secret is what separates the performers from the onlookers, who are on the sidelines scratching their heads and wondering, “How can they do that?”

It’s impossible to achieve this level of performance without giving yourself the time to be consistent. And when I say consistent, I don’t simply mean day to day, week to week. I’m talking about years. A few orders of magnitude greater. Once you’ve strung together a few years of consistent training, then you can start talking about how consistent you’ve been.

For myself, my training age is about three or four. It feels like I’ve been running for most of my life, but in reality it’s only a recent development. I haven’t been running for long, but I’m thinking about the consistency I want to show. Each day, I try to achieve my training objective. I keep my head down and focused on the day. Then, every once and a while I look up and behind me to see how much ground I have covered. It’s truly staggering.

It’s akin to the movement of the planets. They operate on long timelines, ones that most people wouldn’t want to think about. But for those who are willing to put in the hard (and sometimes tedious) work that is needed, they will reap the benefits of the rewards. One small step towards an objective each day isn’t much, but give yourself a few years and you’ll find that you are capable of traversing a much greater distance than you thought.

The beauty of this system is that you don’t have to do everything at once. Instead, focus on being consistent and steady in your training. It doesn’t have to be much. The key is to make it sustainable.

In the beginning, it isn’t so much what you do so much as it is how often do you do it. This isn’t to say volume is king. Rather, I’m advocating that you need to run as often you can without any large breaks in volume. Your volume doesn’t have to be high, but it does have to be consistent. If you can achieve that, then you’re on the right track.

There’s a reason that people always want a secret. It’s because after years and years of hard work, the people who have been dedicated look effortless in whatever activity they’re doing. Whether it’s composing music, writing stories, or running, they barely have to try in order to perform at a level the rest of us would classify as impressive. Naturally, people suspect that there was some trick that got them that far, that enabled them to get so good. And yes, there are some tricks that can help. For running, it’s about being progressive and consistent. However, this knowledge isn’t heralded as a secret. “No, no,” they say. “I mean, a real secret. What really helped you?”

These people don’t get it. They are doomed from the outset, since they want to find a quick way to achieve mastery. But that misses the point. The true secret is this: mastery is always a moving target. It is never a destination.

Every single person running, whether it’s someone trying to break twenty-five minutes in the 5K, or the world-record holder in the marathon, is trying to improve. Even those who would be considered masters at what they do are still trying to improve and produce better work. They aren’t satisfied. They want to continue.

And that’s the secret, really.