You Gotta Have A Plan – Dontcha?

Last updated: 23-Aug-18

By Andy Mouncey

At least, that’s what all the lead characters in the great movies/TV thrillers have. In fact, they go further than that because they give at least one entire wall of their house/office over to The Plan which is then peppered with pictures, photos, lines, notes and pins.

  • Claire Danes as the CIA operative in the USA TV series Homeland
  • Russell Crowe’s police officer in American Gangster
  • John Malkovich as the creepy assassin in Line Of Fire
  • Robert Downey Jnr as Sherlock Holmes in The Game Of Shadows

A Big Wall Plan means you can:

  1. Have an excuse for standing around looking as though you are daydreaming when in actual fact you are just ‘working your plan’.
  2. Move stuff around to create something different if you want to change the view.
  3. Physically rip stuff off/screw stuff up and throw it away which always feels very therapeutic.

Truly, in TV-land at least, The Plan is central to your storyline.

We (that’s me and my friend Paul) were therefore very impressed when another running friend, Sarah, announced recently, as we were all halfway up an early morning ascent of our local mountain, that she had drawn up A Plan.

Ooooo! That means you’re all focused and structured and motivated and everything, then!’ we sneered, secretly jealous of her new-found dedication to The Search For (Sustained) Speed, and starting to remember the times when we too had A Plan and how that plan had actually really helped.

When I had A Plan before,’ said Sarah, ‘It really helped…’ and she then proceeded to sell the benefits to an audience who were actually already converted – it’s just that we’d been doing the spontaneity v obligation bit for a while, and were actually quite comfortable with that, thank you.

Too late: Sarah had sprinkled – as it were – and the seeds of doubt had been sown.

Time to turn the tables and put the focus back on her.

Well it’s all well and good having A Plan,‘ we said, ‘that’s the easy bit. And now you’ve gone and shared The Plan – which is a considerably more scary proposition, so well done, which means all that remains is the really hard bit –  working The Plan.’

We paused for dramatic effect – and to concentrate on our breathing as the slope kicked up viciously.

But don’t worry: now that you’ve told us, we can be really helpful by asking you all about it every time we see you. We could ring you up and remind you. Send helpful and motivating messages. Give you an opportunity to report on how well you’ve been doing your homework – and belittle you and make you feel like a worthless worm if you miss a session.’

We grinned across at her with adoration shining in our eyes: ’We can be your special support team!
And so it went on.

But however much we sought to have a little boyish fun at her expense the fact remained that Sarah had A Plan and was therefore clearly about to go places. We didn’t and, by implication, we weren’t.

And that sucked.

By the time I got home the cogs were still churning: I wanted to go places – heck, I always want to go places – I had an office wall (which was blank) so what was I waiting for?

I know what the problem is’ I said to Mrs Mouncey, we’d been poking away at the business recently looking for ways to get to where we wanted to be faster, ‘I don’t have A Big Plan up on my wall. I used to have one, but…

So that afternoon The Plan went up on the wall: business, family, running – it all went up there – and I spent many happy and smug minutes standing staring and stroking my chin thoughtfully.

Later that day I spoke to Sarah on the phone.

So, that run this morning, then’ I asked. ‘Were we on or off Plan?
Nah, don’t worry,’ came the reply ‘I haven’t started yet.’

Your Plan: Five Points To Ponder

1 Goal Dictates Approach

In other words you start at the end i.e. what you want to achieve and experience at your target event AND what your final readiness test might be before you start your taper.

Then you work back from there to where you are now.

The contents of your plan are therefore dictated by your goals for your target event – in other words how you define ‘success’ at the end. How do those contents help you get ready to achieve what you want? If you can’t answer that then you need to change the bits you have questions about.

2 Support v Sabotage

How you live your life (and do your training) will either support the realisation of your goals or sabotage them.

It can be that simple.

This means that your plan should support you in achieving your goals i.e. it should be a HELP – something that’s easy to use and something you look forward to revisiting. If it gets to the point where it becomes some dark force with a life of it’s own that worms its way into your soul such that you are compelled to follow it to the letter regardless of real life or risk eternal damnation…you’re probably becoming very boring and not very pleasant to live with. So, just remember who’s in charge here.

3 No Battle Plan Survives First Contact With The Enemy

So said some wise military chappie, apparently.

Which means tablets of stone are out and pencils and post-its are in. Sure, some things ought to be non-negotiable – otherwise what’s the point, right? – and some things you’re able to adjust as theory and reality collide.

4 Success v Learning

If you choose it, your plan can never set you up to fail. This is because you can choose to limit yourself to experiencing just two outcomes:

  1. Success: Your plan will help you achieve what you want when you want it
  2. Learning: Your plan will help you learn for the future

This means that the only thing you can’t plan for is your first choice timescale i.e. you might not get success when you want it.

But if you practice the skills of structured review, reflection and perseverance, chances are that you WILL achieve what you want.

It might just take a few cycles and version of The Plan to do it.

5 F** The Plan

If you’re at all halfway human staying on Plan for an extended period of time on something you do voluntarily for your own selfish reasons can really chafe. Sometimes you just need periods where you do what you enjoy most – and you do it when and how you damn well like.

For most goal-orientated folks, what that means is that they have a framework of habits, choices and disciplines that they follow. That’s just how they do what they do in order to experience most of what they want in life. When there’s a project or a race on the horizon they just tighten some stuff up (support) and let other stuff slide (sabotage). And then every now and again they go off-piste – ‘cos they have learned the value of that too.

About the writer: Andy does the training stuff for us. He is author of ‘So You Want To Run An Ultra’  He runs long for fun and coaches for a living. He lives with his family in North Yorkshire, UK.

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Date Range

Global - Virtual


A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity


An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.



Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.



Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.



Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.