We all come to the starting line for different reasons. Faced with running a half marathon in April, I’ve been doing some thinking about how my running philosophy has changed since high school.
It would be naive to think that the indomitable machine that was the high school cross-country and track training apparatus would be reproducible for me as an adult. You can’t call the runners back to the start once the race has been over for twenty-two years.
In college, I all but gave up on running during school. Sure, I started at UMass with delusions that I would join the cross-country team, but those dreams died before I was through with orientation. I was active during the summer but it was without a clear purpose aside from reconnecting with runners from home.
I almost recaught my stride during grad school – I raced in the Upstate NY XC Series with the High Noon Athletic Club at Cornell. But athletic life and personal well-being was always out of balance with the demands of graduate work. I acquiesced to the idea that productive races were a thing of the past for me, and adopted a “running for life” mentality – running was something I did to extend my life with no intrinsic local value temporally.
Since 2010, I’ve lived in the Puget Sound area of Washington. I’m still trying to find the balance of real life with my desire to make something of my running. Over the last ten years, I’ve been seduced into believing in training plans/styles that advertise better results with less running (e.g., Run Less, Run Faster). These plans promise that “readers can get stronger, faster, and better by training less” (quote via Amazon summary). It sounds great: I’m busy! I can’t run 6-7 days a week anymore like I could in… gosh 1995. I want a plan that fits my packed schedule.
These plans probably work well for some people — I’m guessing those who are into serious cross training so they don’t squander their “off” days. For me, running three days a week inevitably becomes two days a week when I am extra-busy… And two days a week rounds down to zero. I never felt like I was in good running shape under this type of plan. Every run was a chore, and I did not accrue benefits over the long term. At times, I did put down “longer” mileage weeks but it was often in the vein of 25 miles a week on 3-4 runs. This kind of plan just doesn’t help me feel like a runner.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear advocates for changing your behavior by changing your identity. He says:
Anyone can convince themselves to visit the gym or eat healthy once or twice, but if you don’t shift the belief behind the behavior, then it is hard to stick with long-term changes. Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are… The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a marathon runner.James Clear, Atomic Habits
To me, the “Run Less, Run Faster” mentality is not commensurate with “becoming” a runner. We are what we repeatedly do, not what we repeatedly do as little as possible to eke out some minimal benefit.
So I was intrigued when I picked up Hansons Half Marathon Method by Keith and Kevin Hanson. Their method is built on the idea of “cumulative fatigue” — which is fatigue built up over weeks and months of training. They break down their method into five components:
- Active Recovery
I picked up a copy of their book and I’m now a few weeks into their 18-week plan. I’m making a commitment to try this plan out until my half in April. I’ll be breaking down what I’ve learned from this plan over a few different posts.