Run More, Run Faster

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.

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels

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:

  • Mileage
  • Intensity
  • Balance
  • Consistency
  • 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.

Books Referenced in this Post

  

May the 40th Be With You

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse… but maybe one I should have?

“I thought that since you all are turning 40 this year, we should all sign up for the Disney Star Wars Half-Marathon and run it and go to see Galaxy’s Edge. We can call it… ‘May the 40th be with you!’”

The idea checked all the right boxes… Friends, Running, Disney, Star Wars, escaping the infinite rainy season of Seattle right at the point where I would forget that there’s a way to do weather that’s not 40°F and raining.

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away“, by Ivan, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The race itself wasn’t a requirement . Rather, it was a rallying point — a convenient way to pick a date for a trip without needing a consensus. Still.. the idea of running a half marathon, and booking it almost a year in advance, tripped some circuits in my head that I thought had long-since atrophied.

It reminded me that I used to have a thirst for running, and I haven’t felt that way for a while now. In particular, in the last fifteen years my running has been haphazard and has lacked focus. Even when I set up a big goal (e.g., trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2016), I didn’t come at it with a realistic plan (I trained 3 days a week and completed two horrific marathons). I’ve tried to get away with the bare minimum investment in running. I have not made the plans or the commitments that would help me improve.

In total, it’s been a bit of a debacle, especially since I attempted marathons in 2016. I’d like to do it differently in 2020. My guiding principles will be:

  • Run more often.
  • Run higher mileage.
  • Don’t worry about cross-training.
  • Integrate strength/flexibility into my pre/post-run routines.
  • Listen to your body and don’t over-train, but it’s also OK to feel tired sometimes.

I’ll be writing more about all this in upcoming posts.

And yes, I signed up for the Rival Run half marathon scheduled on April 19, 2020.

Why Do I Run?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lion or a gazelle — when the sun comes up you’d better be running.

– Who Knows

When I was ten years old, my mother would take me to dance classes she taught at the local JCC.  They were boring, and I didn’t like the way that the women in the class would fuss over me, so I usually tried to occupy myself elsewhere while she was teaching. For several years this consisted of either watching swimmers while eating challah, or trying to find enough coins to get a plate of french fries at the cafeteria.

The JCC had an indoor track adjacent to the one of the dance studios.  It was old-school and looked like it was made out of melted tennis courts. The track circumnavigated the gymnasium below and smelled like old basketballs and gymnastics equipment.  Each of the four turns of the track were pseudo banked. It was a tight squeeze.

I don’t know where I originally got the idea – possibly from my mother, but one day I decided that I would do laps around the track during her classes.

The track felt long.  I’d run 10 minutes and then want to do something else.  But I always kept a tally of my laps.  I was always interested in knowing how long and how far I ran.  I wanted to know for next time.

I’ve never been a great runner.  But running around that indoor track became more than a simple pass time.   It signified the beginning of a way of thinking that’s been with me ever since and is pervasive in my life.

This is the beginning of a series of posts I’m publishing about why I run and how running has changed for me as I grew into adulthood. I’ll share my thoughts about training (now and in the past), motivation, and why I’ve extended my trial of miles for so long.