One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles. With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.
It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”. Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base. But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.
One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races. These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal. However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.
There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).
For the fourth stop on a tour of Asian cities this year (well, technically, Phuket wasn’t really a city), I hit Tokyo, one of the fine cities of the world. As usual for Asia, finding places to run presents challenges, but Tokyo has taken significant strides towards becoming runner-friendly over the years, part of a general passion for running that is growing in the Japanese culture.
Tokyo has a “humid subtropical climate“, making for mild winters and hot and humid summers. High temperatures range from 9.9º C (50º F) in January to 31º C (88º F) in August, with lows ranging from 2.5º C (37º F) to 24.5º C (76º F) – obviously running in the summer can be a bit of a challenge. Conditions for this December trip were typical of the month, with overnight lows around 40º F, meaning that shorts, a short sleeve shirts, and arm sleeves (with gloves on the last day, with a low around 36º F) sufficed. In fact, I was pleased to be able to pack for this weeklong trip to Taipei and Tokyo in just a carry-on bag.
Even more so than most Asian cities, it is essential to get out early in this most populated city in the world (by most counts) if you need to navigate the city streets. Even then, Tokyo appears to earn an even greater reputation than New York as the city that never sleeps, as the streets are trafficked at all hours of the night. Additionally, one must take care to recognize that, as most island nations, the Japanese drive in the British style – on the left side of the road. This changes the direction you must look at major intersections to ensure you are clear of traffic, and can be tricky to remember. Finally, jaywalking is generally frowned upon in Japan, so it is best to wait for appropriate traffic signals.
Streets are generally well-labeled in Tokyo in both Japanese and English – though the English names can be hard to read from a distance as they are written rather small, and are nonetheless difficult to remember. Additionally, in no way is Tokyo laid out in a gri-like form, but rather that of a city that has grown as needed, trying to accommodate nature along the way, and thus creating a confusing jumble of multiple layers of streets. Getting lost is likely, so it’s best to take a smartphone with access to a map, or a printed out map, with you on your run, as well as the name and address of your hotel written in Japanese for the taxi drivers, and some money to pay (generally 1000 yen should suffice, unless you really stray far from the hotel).
The investment in making Tokyo more runnable takes the form of extended paths along some of the natural areas of the city, including the many rivers and (unfortunately small) parks such as Ueno Park. Additionally, I understand that many streets are being widened to accompany runners and cyclists, but I didn’t see any examples during my visit.
This was my seventh visit to Tokyo, but I haven’t stayed in the city since 2002. All past stays were at the Royal Park Hotel near the Tokyo City Air Terminal in the Nihonbashi district, not too far from the famous Akihabara district, with it’s electronics stores. From this area, the Sumida River provides a suitable running route, though an out-and-back along the riverside paths is limited to roughly six miles round-trip, without having to take to the streets. However, for variety, it is easy enough to navigate the subway to reach further destinations, and the trains start at 5:00AM, so reaching such destinations as the Imperial Palace is easily achievable from much of the city (additionally, the subway makes a nice alternative for finding your way back to the hotel, as the route maps are easy enough to understand with a little study, and they are far more affordable than a taxi).
For this stay, I was fortunate enough to have had reservations made at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel in Akasaka (and also fortunate that the hotel bill was covered via company expense account, as it is not cheap). Near the Roppongi entertainment (and embassy) district and the government offices in Chiyoda-ku, it is truly near the heart of the city, and, more to my interest, a mere mile from the Imperial Palace, with few intersections. The navigation was a bit tricky at first, as my originally planned route seemed to head to a highway, but a few easy turns, first onto Sotobori-dori, then onto Sakurada-dori led to my intended destination. The maps posted outside many subway stations are also helpful for verifying your whereabouts and boosting your sense of direction.
There is no better choice for putting in a good run in Tokyo than the path around the imperial palace. With a loop of a little longer than 5K and no interference from intersections (unless you choose to extend the loop by visiting some of the nearby gardens), you can tack together a pretty long run incorporating some mild hills. The sight of other runners of all caliber may inspire you as well – it inspired this runner to put in a 4-mile tempo run at a sub-6:00 pace, hampered a bit by needing to politely request “sumimasen” (“excuse me” in Japanese) when passing other runners on some of the tighter sections of the path. I ended up tacking on a five mile cool-down as, well, it took me a while to follow my own advice and I ended up lost, after detouring towards Tokyo Tower to get a picture for my sons. Eventually, I collected myself, looked up the map on my Blackberry, compared it to a subway station map, and found my way back.
And the route is, of course, scenic – you can repeat the loop numerous times and notice different gardens, buildings, bridges, and other features each time, especially if you reverse your route. I once put in a 20-miler comprising six loops of the palace (“look kids, Big Ben, Parliament”) and never once tired of it – quite a statement from a runner who tries to vary his routes as much as possible. I’ve never managed to visit Japan during the blossoming of the cherry trees in April, but can imagine this loop would be simply diving at that time.
Even in the Land of the Rising sun, the predawn period extends past 6 AM as the winter solstice approaches. And surprisingly, for a culture with a reputation of working late (and drinking late – rice and beer are great carbo-loading, by the way) and getting a later start in the morning, the government workers start making their way to their offices before 7 AM, making the return navigation on the sidewalks a bit trickier, especially near subway stations. With all that, though, there are few better cities for the traveling runner than Tokyo, and I can’t wait to see the results of the planned enhancements.
You can see photos of my predawn runs around the Imperial Palace as well as other city shots and those from an evening in Kyoto in my Flickr photostream.
It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe. But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.
First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store. My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes. While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients. My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before. The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss. Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »
Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time. This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves. Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.
However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.
A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach. My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…
Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »