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 this profile, we head back to the happy predawn hunting grounds of Prattville, Alabama (which previously yielded profiles on Kym Klass and Drew Trachy), to catch up with James Killian of the Early Morning Cruzin podcast and blog. James has been running for longer than I’ve been alive (OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration – but not much!) and thus provides a different perspective on the balance between aggressive goals and maintaining running as a lifetime hobby – a lesson many of us would do well to heed these days. You can find James on dailymile or, if you can tolerate the spouting off about his Auburn Tigers, on Twitter as alroadrunn3r.
Predawn Runner: You’ve had quite a bit of history with your running. Can you tell us how and when you started, and share some of the highlights from your running “career”?
James Killian: My earliest remembrance of running is when I was in 5th grade. I was on the 4 x 50 relay team for a “Sports Day” celebration of some kind. That was when I was a sprinter! ;-) That same school year I had to take a bus to the school, which was about 5 miles from where I lived. Well on some days I just didn’t want to wait for the bus, so, like Forrest Gump, I just ran. I would run home and what made it interesting is I would race the bus home. So, while everyone waited for the bus to arrive at school and for it to make the second school pickup, I would be hoofing it home in my jeans and tennis shoes. There were times I won and times that the bus won. This was back in the day that a parent would let you do such a crazy thing.
I have had two births to my running. One was as a freshman at Auburn High School. A new coach had been hired for the XC and Track team. I showed some interest in coming out for the track team and he encouraged me to come out for XC to get in shape. That was the best suggestion I could have gotten. I loved every minute of XC season for 4 years. I was voted most valuable member of the XC team my junior and senior years. Track became something I did to get ready for XC!
I have a few running highlights. The first two were as a high school runner. First was the District XC – 3 mile, where I came in second overall, with a time of 15:45. I still can recall certain portions of that race in my memory. Not long after that was the district Indoor 2 mile (actually ran on an outdoor track), where I came in first and ran a 10:16.
In 1977 I ran in the Peachtree Road Race (my 2nd). There were approx 6,000 participating runners that year. I came in 281st place with a time of 37:52. After the race we saw Frank Shorter walking across a street in downtown ATL and we ran over and he gladly gave us his autograph.
Now skip ahead from 1978 to Sept, 2000 – there was very little running during those between years. The fall of 2000, I was challenged by my sister to begin training for a half marathon to be held that next February in Birmingham, AL. Well, the rest they say is history. My post-modern highlights include finishing the 2007 Mercedes ½ marathon with a time of 1:29:57 and 4th in age group (missed 3rd by 8 seconds). Also in 2007 was a 10th place age group finish at the Azalea Trail 10k with a time of 40:36 (Got to meet Bill Rodgers the night before the race and got his autograph). 2007 was a year I look back to and remember the great times I ran (great for me). It really was fun.
PR: Your goals have evolved the past few years, can you share a bit about what you have been focusing on, and how that has modified your approach to running?
JK: Turning 50 really hit me harder than I anticipated. But I want others who are 50+ to know that I am hitting back! As I said, 2007 was a banner year for my running. I am shocked when I read my training and racing logs from that year. However, lessons can be learned the hard way in running. I raced hard that year, and trained hard. It finally took its toll in the fall of 2007, and I was out of running almost the whole of 2008. I think my mileage total for 2008 was less than 500 miles. I spent that year in the gym (I had better work hours then). I learned the hard way that easy days are supposed to be easy days.
PR: You ran across quite a road bump last year, in the form of injury. How did it happen, and what impact did it have on reaching your goals?
JK: Well, the only goal it interrupted was to finish a marathon. But to be honest I am not upset that I didn’t get that goal. The marathon has never has been a hot button for me. I am quite happy with the 10k and half marathon distances.
I am really not sure what caused the Achilles injury. It was a new type of injury. As runners we ache virtually all the time but this was a different hurt. I am hoping it is behind me now.
What it did was take the pressure off of any plans for 2011. Right now I don’t plan to race competitively in 2011. I am looking long term and 2012 is on my scope for a banner racing year.
PR: What are you doing differently going forward, in terms of goals and approaches to training?
JK: I am just taking my time to build up my mileage. My plan is, by fall, to make my long run standard to be 15 miles rather than the 10 that it has been for so long. I will not include any intense intervals. Tempo or fartlek will be the only speed work I will work into my plans.
PR: What makes you and J2 such dedicated predawn runners?
JK: We are predawn runners out of support and necessity. When I started back running I made it clear that I wouldn’t let this get in the way of family time. Mornings are the only time where I can accomplish this. The reason we are up and on the road by 3:30? Well J2 wanted a partner to run with and so he runs when I do. The reason I run this early is because I have to catch a commuter van to work and it leaves town at 5:30. So I have to be up, run and done and ready to drive to the van by 5:20. But as are many running partners we are both afraid of the wrath from the other if we don’t show up for a run.
PR: What prompted you to start the Early Morning Cruzin podcast, and what has it done for you in helping you work towards your goals?
JK: I started listening to podcasts when I got my iPhone… I had no clue what I was getting myself into. The two podcasters that got me to thinking about doing my own show were Gordon Harvey (This Running Life) and Kevin (The Extra Mile Podcast). I met Gordon (and Mark – bamarunner) at a race in Clanton, AL. Gordon recorded a little after the race and I thought it was pretty neat. I bought a recorder and started sending in updates to The Extra Mile podcast and at some point Kevin planted a seed by saying that he thought he was sure I would eventually have my own podcast. Guess he was right! Other podcasters that were huge in their encouragement were Mike (dirtdawg) with the DDRD podcast, and Megan (Run Vegan Run). The podcasting community is very supportive and let me tell you, there is room for more. There is a niche that each podcaster finds of people that will take time to listen.
PR: So what should we expect to see from you this year, in terms of training, racing, and podcasting?
JK: Training will be different this year. But I am in no hurry. No race plans at this time. I may run in races but I will not compete until I am VERY ready. Again, I am in no hurry. 2012 is going to be outstanding.
As far as podcasting, I’ll probably just continue as I have been doing. To the most part about every other week I’ll release another unedited conversation with J2 about whatever we have to talk about that day. I just mentioned this to a runner friend today that I think there are plenty of podcasts you can listen to if you want to know how to run; I just want to be there with you as we talk about running.
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 »