Subscriber OnlyYour Fitness

What was the biggest impact on your running year?

Mary Jennings: While achievements are worthy of praise, consider where your inspiration, motivation and knowledge came from

When we list our running highlights of the year we think of finish-lines, personal bests and runs that felt amazing. But this year, come join me in remembering our running journey a little differently.

Ask yourself this question – who (or what) had the biggest impact on your running over the last 12 months? While all your achievements are certainly worthy of praise, consider for a moment where your inspiration, motivation and knowledge came from this year.

Making an impact

Some of you might instantly think of a running buddy, coach, book or even social media post that has taken your running to a new level. Maybe it was the launch of new local parkrun that gave you the nudge out of bed on a Saturday morning. It might have been a new training plan, a running blog or even a fancy watch that has been a game changer for you. Impact can come in many guises, the biggest influence on our running year might not be directly related to running at all.

Home sweet home

Our local environment and daily routines can play a huge part in the success of our running year. Working from home or returning to the office may have changed up your freedom to run at different times of the day. Maybe you have more time in mornings now that small children have started school. Or could it be that evening running is back on your agenda due to new pitch floodlights or bright paths close to home.


The people we meet

Regardless of where we live and how busy our lives are, we are all influenced by the people we interact with both virtually and on the road. It might be a neighbour who gets you out the door or a running clubmate who makes interval training more fun. Maybe the credit goes to your physio or yoga teacher for helped your running feel better this year. A family member who gives you encouragement when runs don’t quite go to plan could be the difference between you keeping going or giving up. Consider also who you follow online. You may have learned lots from running blogs, social media posts and stories.

Strangers who inspire

The greatest inspiration can often come from those who don’t know us at all. Watching marathons on TV or binging on sports documentaries gives some runners the motivation needed to build strength and consistency. But it’s not only the high achievers that inspire. I’m often more inspired from those I can relate to. There are three ladies that I see running together weekday mornings at 9am. I know they have just dropped their kids to school. Although I don’t even know their names, they are my regular reminder to get my mornings more organised to be running from the school gate. As we have heard many times, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. Who do you see that you aspire to be like?

Not always good news

It is important to remember that the influence of our environment and the people we spend time with does not always have a positive impact on our running. If you are not in a supportive environment at home or at your local running club, your confidence and motivation will take a hit. Following social media accounts that make us feel bad about our running performance or ambitions can nip away at our self-belief and willingness to keep running part of our lives. Why we may not be able to amend some elements of our environment, we do have a choice in who we follow online, who we run with and who we compare ourselves with. You get to pick your role models and running buddies. So as we as reflect on those positive people in your life, choose which influences from this year you may wish to leave behind or unfollow going forward.

A little bit of luck

Luck and timing can play a factor in our running success too. An unfortunate stumble off a kerb can lead to an injury that keeps you off the road for months. Or you can get lucky and win a place in a race lottery which helps structure your running year. Maybe you have had a tough year of illness or have had a bereavement that has impacted your ability and energy to run. No two people have had the same year. We have all had different challenges to overcome and some of you could do with a bit of good luck right now. But even if your running year has not gone to plan, you can still take lessons from this year passed. Recognise the positive influences around you and when you are ready for a running comeback you know where to turn for support and guidance.

Giving Credit

While our environment and a little bit of good luck can help shape our success, I truly believe it’s the people we have encountered that makes all the difference. I bet your running has influenced others whether you realise it or not. In fact by reading this article you are one of the people I must acknowledge. I certainly wouldn’t be still writing every fortnight for the last nine years if it wasn’t for you reading and keeping me accountable. Thank you for your support, your time and your encouragement to keep me writing and learning about running. Next time our heads will be into planning next year.

So for now, take a pause, and drop a message of gratitude to those special people who have shaped your last 12 months. You wouldn’t be where you are now without them.

  • In the meantime, sign up for one of The Irish Times’s Get Running programmes (it’s free!) First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.
  • Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
  • Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week
  • 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark. Best of luck!

– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach at Her running classes and coaching programmes are now open for booking.