It’s time to put on your summer running shoes

Mary Jennings: The perfect summer running goal is one that fits in around your other commitments and brings you joy

The shorts are finally on and I’m delighted to be complaining about the heat rather than the cold on the run. Summer is finally here. Even if it is not quite tropical, it feels so liberating to run free from the weight of winter layers. –

I’m excited for the sunny months ahead and I’ve already crafted my summer running plans. Inspired by taking a group of runners on a retreat into the French hilly countryside last week, I’m determined to spend this summer avoiding the main roads exploring my local grass paths and trails.

But what about you, where will your summer of running take you?

Your successful summer

–– Maybe you have a race booked or plan to take your running gear on holiday. It’s also okay if you have not had a moment to consider your summer running plans yet. In fact I might catch you before you automatically sign up to a race that your friends are doing without ever considering if it really is the right goal for you.


Your best running summer might not be the one where you run your fastest or longest run but it could be one you laugh the most, learn more about your body or fix a niggle that has been bothering you. Take the time now to consider where you would you love to run, what distance excites you and realistically how much time you can give to running over the next few months.

Backbone of your summer

Summer is supposed to be a time for fun and fresh air and while I do love the freedom of it, popping a few key event dates in the diary helps keep me focused and grounded once school is out. When I have a training plan in place, I follow it. When I don’t, time literally disappears.

We have all been through enough summers to know our diaries fill quickly with family commitments, work and social events as the summer rolls on. It is very easy for the next four months to roll on by if you don’t make a plan. The backbone of our running summer are these dates we set in the diary in early summer. Don’t let the summer run away on you. Make a plan.

Look back for inspiration

If you struggle to visualise your perfect running summer ahead, why not look to the past for inspiration. What do you remember from previous summers that you loved? Maybe sticking to a training plan over summer helped build discipline. Alternatively, summer training might have proven too stressful to manage alongside kids off school. Summer might be your time to aim to beat those long-standing personal bests or you may enjoy running free with more focus on the post-run picnics.

There is no correct summer running plan. The perfect summer goal is one that fits in around your other commitments and brings you joy rather than feels like another drain on your time and energy.

What’s important to you

Later this summer I picture myself running light on my feet with the Atlantic on one side and a hilly coastal path in front of me. Speed won’t be my priority but building strength and resilience on hills and uneven ground in the meantime will be. Knowing this is what I’m aiming for will dictate my training plan and I have chosen a few key race days as stepping stones to help keep me on track. Having this base of training will stand to me and allow me to take on impromptu opportunities that will no doubt arise over the summer.

Whether you wish to spend your summer running solo or socially, you never know when you might come across a new path to explore. Having a good base of training will stand to you, as will always keeping a set of running clothing in the boot of the car just in case.

Take the pressure off weekends

If we wait for weekends to pop on our summer running shoes, we miss some of the best opportunities. Summer weekdays can be so special. Weekdays can all merge into a treadmill of work, housework and planning for the next day if we are not careful. I encourage all the members of my running group to break up the monotony and routine of a typical working week and get outside.

Last week, we spent a Monday evening running the sand dunes on Dollymount strand on Dublin’s northside, followed by a flask of tea at sunset. On Tuesday, we walked and chatted out the spectacular cobbled path out to Poolbeg lighthouse. Adventures don’t have to be just for weekends. You probably wont have time for them anyhow. Why not see if you could have one occasionally on a school night.

Unpredictability of Summer

Despite the enthusiasm we might have to run more in the sunshine, our performance might not always match our expectations in summer. Running can be humbling for most of us in the heat and humidity after a long winter. Generally, an Irish summer will creep up on us without too much of a shock to the system but if you intend travelling abroad be flexible with your running and adapt to the conditions.

We can certainly make great plans, but we must not take our running so seriously that we cannot adapt for extreme heat or other unexpected circumstances. Skip a run or move to a different time of day if you can. Always having a plan B race is a great backup for anyone who is training for a big summer event.

Put pen to paper

Summer is, without doubt, the easiest time of the year for motivation, as well as the season with the best choice of race events in the calendar but it can also be an extremely busy time in most people’s personal lives. If you are determined this year to make time for your running, write down now what you really want to prioritise this summer and then make each of the training sessions you do a mini stepping stone to getting there.

Once we commit to something on paper, it becomes a little more real.

When I am running along that wild Atlantic coastal path later this summer, where will you be running with a smile on your face?

Go on, let’s make it happen.

  • Mary Jennings is founder of Her summer running classes in Dublin start this week in Sandymount and Clontarf.
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