The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of High Mileage Training

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

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.

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Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study

Perfect 10 Race Start

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).

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From the Archives:
What I Think About “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

After dwelling in the “technical / how-to” domain of running literature for some time (with the works of Lydiard, Hutchinson, [amazon_link id=”B0052ZO7D4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Douglas[/amazon_link], and others in the queue), I wandered a bit over to the “memoir” side of the aisle and picked up the Kindle Version of Haruki Murakami’s [amazon_link id=”B0015DWJ8W” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]What I Talk About When I Talk About Running[/amazon_link].  As opposed to the fiction for which he is well-regarded, this is a simpler work, an attempt to answer the often-asked question – “why do you run?”

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is available in hardcover, paperback, and for the Kindle from Amazon (affiliate link)

As an author of truly global stature (and travels), this book was guaranteed to sell well without much effort, and it comes across as a work into which not much effort was placed.  With a casual, chain-of-thought approach, punctuated by frequent flashbacks to specific destinations, seasons, or events that provided more memorable running experiences, it is a breezy read that doesn’t require much thinking on the part of the consumer.

Murakami-san portrays running as routine, as the metronome for his daily rhythm.  In the somewhat unstructured life of the writer (and translator/fellow/jazz aficionado), where it may be difficult to find the right mix between intense/focused work and allowing the creative juices to percolate, such routine can be an anchor that grounds the day, the fulcrum that helps balance other responsibilities.

The most compelling sections of the book are the three significant race descriptions:

  • A milestone run from Athens to Marathon – his first “marathon” (almost) and not really a race (performed at the behest of a men’s magazine), reminding us of the challenge that such a distance provides even to “just finish”.
  • An ultramarathon (100K)  in Hokkaido, Japan – the transcendental state he reaches at the 47th mile (after the suffering of the previous 13, which spawns some brilliant analogies) makes the appeal of the ultra to increasing numbers of runners more clear, more than just a “new challenge” to conquer.
  • A triathlon in Murakami City (presumably, not named after the author), Japan – not his first, but one that he prepared for with some focus and a reminder of how even the most mundane things can go wrong.  Yet, if you run for the joy of it, it doesn’t need to ruin your experience.

Surprisingly, the 2005 New York City Marathon, the training for which provides the central timeline of the book, goes mostly unreported, as just another marathon in a long litany of unsuccessful efforts to reach the performance of his younger years.  So in a way, there is a bit of a dark overtone to the book, a recognition that age eventually takes its toll on all of us, despite our efforts to the contrary.

In reading a bit about Murakami-san (though, admittedly, I haven’t read any of his fiction), it seems he is a bit of solitary individual, as many writers are.  In fact, some of his books strike the theme of loneliness and isolation.  It would seem that running is a great fit for such an individual – and it is notable that Murakami-san makes few references to running with others.

I was struck by, as Geoff Dyer was in his New York Times review, the sometimes-amateur nature of the writing – some sloppy transitions, a tendency to jump from one time period to another, and it feels that the book was unedited.  “Attention deficit” prose, as Mr. Dyer calls it, is an apt description. This doesn’t detract significantly from my enjoyment of the book, as my expectations weren’t all that high to begin with.  I mainly picked up the work to see how a more accomplished author would handle the creation of an autobiography about running, having just done my own such work.  One would think that I would have done this before writing my book, but frankly I don’t think I missed much by waiting until now.

Pete Larson on Runblogger reports feeling a kinship with Murakami after reading this book.  I’m not sure I felt the same way, but then again my adherence to a daily schedule (precise, at certain points, down to 5-minute intervals) and my marathon training approach is a bit more structured and intense.  Many runners may well find familiarity in the work, and a reminder of why they run (or should start again).

If you are looking for a book to motivate your competitive juices and provide insights on how to achieve new highs in your racing, this isn’t the book for you.  But if you need a gentle reminder of the centering force that running can provide, or a reason to sign up for that next marathon to keep you committed, then by all means, invest two to three hours of your time in this easy read.

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1

PI Road N1 Side

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 »

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Posted in Gear by Greg. 2 Comments

Seven Ways to Support Your Significant Other’s Interest in Running

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

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.

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Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

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 »