One Rule To Break


I had no idea what I was doing but I HAD to try out for the junior high track team.

I mean, everyone was joining clubs and I finally found the club for me!

I lucked out with the coach. Coach Horwedel was the perfect mix of positive, encouraging, and high expectations. 

One day during an interval workout, he came over to me and suggested that I hold my elbows in on my arm swing. The way I swung them out was inefficient and I’d be faster if I could.

“Wait…I can run wrong?” was all I could think.

Fifteen-year old me was painfully aware how uncoordinated I was - all arms and legs that didn’t necessarily operate according to instructions. But running felt so natural that I'd assumed it was a flaw-free zone.

Standing there, scanning around the track at everyone else’s arm swing, I felt embarassed. I couldn’t see mine but I could try to make mine look like theirs.

On the next interval, I tucked my elbows and focused on making my arms swing forward and back in what felt like a straight line by my side.

Instead of fast, it felt awful. It was like my arms couldn’t balance out my legs and my whole body motion fell apart. Plus, I was actually slower!

Determined to run right and make Horwedel proud of me, I tried for days to change my arm swing, to no avail. 

Something wasn’t working. Frustrated, I finally looked beyond the ideal arm swing to the assumption behind it.

What if the opposite was true - what if this WAS the way I was supposed to run?

What was “right” anyway? Was it one thing or could it be many things...or even a range of things?

Still self-conscious about my gawky elbows, I decided to keep running my way.

Whatever I was doing, I figured, was right enough for me.

Decades later, in a class on running form, the instructor talked about arm swing. Coach Horwedel was right. I felt the old frustration all over again.

Then, he showed us a photo of Joan Benoit Samuelson. He pointed out all the things that were technically “wrong” with her form…but said you couldn’t argue with results. Her form obviously worked for her.

“Wait...there wasn’t one “right” after all?!”

Yes, and it took someone telling me, so I’m telling you… 

Doing something well may not mean doing it “right.”

If you’re worrying about ultrarunning wrong, don’t. There’s no exact, one-size-fits-all, right way to train, race, or even pack a drop bag.

Whatever “it” is, doing it the “right” way may not be right for you.

Learn everything you can (I’m here to help!) but right or wrong, get out there, run, and decide what’s right for you.

Susan Donnelly’s signature

PS - I have one opening left for a 1:1 client. With coaching, you get a 100-mile expert consultant, mindset coach, and running coach all in one - the perfect combo if your looking to finish a 100-mile race.

If you're considering it, don't wait - this may be the last opening for the year.

Email me hereto set up a free consult call to ask questions and see if this is a fit for you!