Breaking the Seven Year Rule

Yesterday I read something mildly terrifying. Runner’s World had a list of 25 Golden Rules for running, and down in #12 was the Seven Year Rule – Runners improve for about seven years, and that’s it. Here it is in full:

Mike Tymn noticed this in the early 1980s and wrote about it in his National Masters News column. “My seven-year adaptation theory was based on the fact that so many runners I talked to ran their best times an average of seven years after they started,” he recalls.

The Exception: Low-mileage runners can stretch the seven years to well over a decade before plateauing.

Doing a little maths in my head, I worked out I began running in 2005 (for Sports Day, of all things) and my best 10k time came in December 2012… Exactly seven years later. Naturally this freaked me out – one of my favourite parts about running is the possibility of always being able to do better and go beyond your limits. So I had two choices – give into the curse and call it a day, or look for new ways to continue improving. Without further ado, here’s my list.

1. Make a plan

As the A-Team taught us, there’s nothing as scary as a plan when it’s coming together. Knowing what you’re going to do and preparing for it is far more effective than just winging it. If you’re training for a race, work out what mileage or pace you want to be at each week; this will give you the incentive to put the work in. Say it with us now…

2. Set a goal

It’s easy to slip into the mentality of ‘I’ll do a few more races and see what happens…’ No. Setting a goal goes hand in hand with making a plan. It has to be both realistic and a challenge for you. Running in the Olympics is unlikely, but the idea of running your first sub-40 minutes 10k might be just what you need to spur you on. For example, my next goal is to beat my 10k PB – a tough challenge to be sure, but not impossible.

3. Run with other people

There’s nothing to shatter your ego quite like training with better runners, and this will certainly help you improve. If you run alone, join a club; if you’re already in one, consider moving to a more competitive one or organising faster runs between the regular meetings. Even better, two or more of you could train for the same race together. Group support and competition are both valuable tools.

4. Go the extra mile (figuartively)

When you’ve been in a rut for a while, it can feel like you will never get out of it. You’re destined to plod the same tired routes at the same tired pace for eternity or until your trainers give out… However, world records are often decided by split seconds and simply going for one extra ran or refusing can take the short cut home can have big benefits later. Putting your heart and soul into running will ensure you body adapts quicker to it too.