Having just completed an 87-mile training week, I was disappointed in the results, although hardly surprised:
I had averaged a depressing 10 hours per day sitting.
This conclusion was based on diary that tracked how I spent my time over the last week: sitting, standing, walking, running, and lying down.
The motivation for this exercise was the growing concern among healthcare professionals about the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, especially too much sitting. Indeed, according to one recent study, more than 7 hours a day sitting could be unhealthy. In which case, I’m at risk.
Ted Corbitt, known as the “father of long distance running,” is famous for many accomplishments. I had heard that his training regime included weeks where he’d run 200 miles or even 300. I couldn’t imagine how someone could do that while working full time. And why would you want to?
And so it was with great interest that I attended a presentation hosted by the New York Road Runners featuring Corbitt’s son, Gary, who shared personal insights about his father and talked about the history of the New York running scene.
In a recent New Yorker article, Kathryn Schulz ponders the 50,000 participants in the New York City Marathon, curious about what running could teach us of the “deep strangeness” of the human brain. Her essay discusses research studies and books about running, including Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Murakami is not only an internationally acclaimed author who’s been lauded as one of the world’s greatest living novelists, he is also a long-distance runner who’s completed thirty marathons including New York City. I was therefore somewhat surprised when Schulz dismissed his book as doing “very poor justice” to the question of what people think about while running. She found it “neither inspirational nor aspirational nor descriptive.” Rather, it was “banal.”
It’s true, Murakami’s book has an ordinary tone and lacks the whimsical, surreal touches that grace his fiction. But in re-reading the book, I found it addressed Schulz’ question head-on, just not in the way she might have expected. You see, when you’re running, what may matter more is what you’re not thinking….
The weather station indicated a temperature of 39 F, intermittent rain, and gusty winds. Not a nice day in the conventional sense, but for those so inclined, a chance to get outdoors and mix it up with nature. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about the Yurok Indians of Northern California whose warriors would head out into the mountains during the stormy winter months to chase the Thunders, with the goal of demonstrating vigor and determination and, if they impressed the spirits, receiving special powers.
And so, I made my way to the paved trail that runs along the Chicago lakefront, but upon turning north, I found myself in for a rude surprise…
“Of course you’re slowing down — you’re getting older,” the voice whispered, and I hated it. But it was true: this morning’s 1-mile repeats were disappointing, averaging around twenty seconds slower than earlier this year. “Age is catching up with you,” the voice continued, its tone at once insinuating and damning, “it’s getting harder to sustain speed.”
It’s not the fist time this voice has piped in; actually, I’ve heard it on and off for years. But when I looked at the data, I interpreted a different story.
On Sunday, November 1, I completed the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon, my 68th race of marathon or ultra-marathon distance.
I headed into this race with limited training. Back in August, I completed the Beast of Burden 100-mile ultramarathon in bad shape, having unwittingly strained my hip adducters, and it took three or four weeks to recover. As this injury gradually healed, I developed a stress reaction in my left foot from barefoot running. On any given day, it seemed that if one injury felt better, the other was worse. I backed off, and both injuries healed, but September and October were lost to serious training. My running log showed no long runs since July, no quarter-mile splits since June, no Yasso splits since early May, and I couldn’t even remember the last time I had run on pavement.
For those who have mountains on the mind, the stairmaster is a great way to train muscles and spirit. But how to structure the training? I see a lot of different styles at my local health club: people with earbuds dancing on the machines, others plodding along as they read the newspaper, some bent over almost horizontally as they hang from the handrails.
It occurred to me that the same principles of training might apply to climbing as well as running, so I turned for guidance to Daniels’ Running Formula, 3rd edition.
The last morning of our stay in Corvara (in Italy’s Dolomite Alps), I had time for a short adventure, 2-3 hours max, before we’d need to pack and leave for the long trip home.
I decided to climb up and then run down the 2,100-foot slope from town to the Piz Boe Alpine Lounge and ski lift, which I had enjoyed two days ago, but with a twist: I’d hike up barefoot, and run down in LUNA sandals.
Whether it’s a 5k or a half-marathon, I love to race, which means I’m always looking for ways to run faster. So it was with great interest that I read a copy of Ultimate Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley. To be sure, this book was not written specifically for runners. Rather, it was written for high performance and race car drivers. But no matter what the sport, you’d think speed would depend on the same principles, or at least similar ones.
What is the secret to becoming a winning race car driver? According to Ross Bentley, the secret is to drive consistently “at the limit.” This means fully utilizing the traction of the tires. Or put differently, driving as fast as possible just short of losing control.
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance
— Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
As someone who loves to explore forest trails, I nonetheless spend a fair amount of time at the local track. I’m always trying to run a little bit faster, and I love to make progress.
One of my favorite track workouts is called the Yasso 800. It consists of ten 800-meter (or 1/2 mile) intervals, with 400-meter (1/4 mile) jogs for recovery in between. The name was coined by Runners World editor Amby Burfoot in an 1994 article after he heard his colleague Bart Yasso claim that the drill would predict his marathon time. It’s simple, Bart explained: the average time for the 800-meter intervals in minutes and seconds would predict his marathon time in hours and minutes. For example, an average interval time of 2 minutes 50 seconds would correspond to a marathon finishing time of 2 hours and 50 minutes. The relationship could be thrown off by heat, wind, or hills, but the intervals had proven a reliable indicator, at least in Bart’s own experience.