A runner is anyone who sets goals, and then tries to achieve them. With the growth of running’s popularity, this definition has gotten lost in the masses. I have no ill feelings towards anyone who tries to improve their self by exercising but just because you run once a month doesn’t mean you should be entering races as a “runner”. This post will hopefully give some thought into training for a race that you are trying to prove something to yourself by obtaining a goal.
Training To Race
After running with Sam, for the first run together in our entire lives, I noticed that our training techniques differ. I had an inkling this was the case from reading about his previous practice runs but I didn’t truly understand until we had a brief discussion. To put it as simply as possible, Sam runs miles, I run to exhaustion. This is mainly because we are at different stages of our lives with Sam finishing his collegiate running career and myself trying to stay in shape and run quick times in races I choose to enter. He had time available to him to run 70-80 mile weeks whereas I was lucky to squeeze in 25. When running 70-80 miles, the pace is going to be slower because you are running more. My runs tend to be shorter and as fast as I possibly can do them.
My training is based on whatever upcoming race that I signed up for. For instance, in the upcoming two weeks I signed up for a 10k and 15k. My philosophy is that I can’t enter a 15k unless I’ve been able to run 9 straight miles on a training run. Training shape equates to racing shape. Today I was able to run 7 miles at a pace that was about a minute slower per mile than my anticipated race pace. With 7 days until the race, I want to put in 3-4 more runs with the longest being 9 miles, no rest. This way when I get to the race, I’m not worried about finishing the race, I’m thinking about how I’m going to run the race.
I also try to peak when I’m about to race. If I know that I have a race 2 months away, I’m not going to kill myself on training runs day 1. The body can only endure so much and it’s important to take care of it. I think 12 weeks is enough time to get yourself into race shape. The distance of the race that I signed up for will always dictate how much I’m running. If I have a 5k upcoming, I may do shorter, speedier runs than if I was training for a half marathon. For a half marathon, I’ll start with 3-5 mile runs and over time graduate to 10-13 mile training runs. When I get to the end of the training, I want to have completed the full distance of the race without stopping. Training to peak is something that is important because we can’t be in our best shape at all times. Sometimes life gets in the way.
I want to point out that running is a process. You slowly build up to race shape with shorter runs and making sure the mileage isn’t overwhelming. Getting injured is the worst possible thing that can happen to a runner. Being stubborn is also a leading cause of injury for runners. It’s difficult to dissect whether that nagging pain is something to run through or to rest and that’s when people get hurt. I hurt my knee a few months ago and I can still feel that it’s tweaked. When I start to notice it more than I feel comfortable with, I back off. This is why I make certain to write that you have to build up to running. If you are doing a half marathon, you don’t just go out and run 13 miles. It’s a long, slow process. Rest is your friend.
Keep a Running Log
I have had multiple running logs throughout my life. They tend to disappear when I purchase a new computer. A log is important because it sets benchmarks and can show you how good of shape you are in when compared to other points in time. I tend to get lazy with this part of the training process but it’s a useful tool. The way I do it is by taking a set of runs and picking spots along those runs to take a time. Being a person of routine, I usually only have about 3 runs that I rotate so it doesn’t get complicated. I don’t mind if the time is every half mile, mile, or just a set distance. Here is an example of my log. The first part of this run has no mile markers and my watch doesn’t count miles so I just take an aggregate time. The next part are all half mile splits which are marked on the trail. Coming back is the same distance as the start. From this run, you can see that I was tired when I finished the run as I was 2 minutes slower coming back. I also made an effort to pick it up at certain points of the path to see what race pace feels like. The next time I go out for a run, I compare it to this and see if I was faster or slower. If I was slower, what have I done in between those dates?