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Almost everything you know about running is wrong, for me

August 3, 2014

TL;DR – My running philosophy doesn’t seem to line up with marathoners’. It’s either hubris and inexperience, or I’m paying close attention to my body’s needs.

Talking about running

I have a friend who runs. He has a blog, and Twitter and Facebook, but he never talks about it publicly at all. He says, “It’s something for me.” I get that. Running is something I do for me, too. But I also have this thing about telling people. Some of it is, I admit, bragging and hoping for people to revere me and go “Wow, you know that girl Jen? She couldn’t run a single lap in middle school, but now she’s a half-marathoner!” (Or something equally awed.) But most of it is just a need to communicate. Someone out there is looking for something, and maybe it’s running, and maybe the thing I say is what they need to hear.

I imagine that’s the impetus for quite a few writers. “Someone might want to hear this.”

Training for me

I tell people, my approach to training to run is to read everything – I read a lot – and then do whatever the hell I feel like. What I feel like is running a lot, but not so much that it damages me. I want to run faster, but I don’t want to push so hard that running is miserable. I want to meet goals – a full marathon is next – but I don’t have any particular time limit on when I will meet that goal.

So yeah, I run however I feel like. And I’ve been thinking about that.

I showed a couple of marathon training plans to Sean, and pointed out that one has more rest days than the other (2 vs 1). “Gee, I wonder which one you’ll go with.”  That’s like calling someone chicken; the immediate response is “NO I’LL SHOW YOU.” But, I’m not running to SHOW YOU. I’m running to Achieve a Thing, to Do Stuff.  That quick exchange with Sean got me pondering principals.

Principles of marathon training

An experienced runner pointed me to a marathon training plan, and said to work out when it is that I’d want to run the race, and map out my training based on that. I asked, since my eventual goal is to run an ultra marathon, does it really matter when the marathon is? I’m training to run a really really really long way, right? So I kind of need to keep on training to run longer and longer, I would think.

The basic answer was that marathon training is unsustainable, that it’s really hard on the body. You have to put your effort into training right before the marathon, then take it easy.

I’m forming theories. I suspect that the goals of marathon training and my goals aren’t exactly aligned.  For a marathon:

  • You train really hard on a strict schedule and get to your running goal in a matter of 12-20 well-disciplined weeks.
  • The idea is to reach a goal – the ability to run 26.2 miles at a certain pace – meet it, and then chillax.
  • There’s a certain amount of pain and damage that’s acceptable – even expected – for marathon training and running.

But, for me:

  • I like to run. I’m not good with schedules. I don’t give much of a shit when I run the marathon (though I suppose sometime in the next 6-12 months would be great). And I’m not much for discipline either.
  • The idea is to eventually meet a goal, while enjoying the process and minimizing or eliminating bad effects. And when I meet the goal of running a marathon, I want to keep going and do something bigger.
  • I’m very lucky in that I don’t have any real problems starting out (other than exercise induced asthma, which I can manage with the inhaler and a slower pace). I’m currently working under the theory that my running philosophy can keep me running longer and longer, over a period of months and months, without injury. In fact, the goal of non-injury and low pain is far above the marathon goal.

The non-plan running plan

So I think instead of running 6 days a week, hard, on a strict schedule for the next 14 weeks (likely hurting myself in the process), I’m going to try what I’ve been doing: I’m going to run however I feel. However I feel right now looks something like this:

  • Ran two ½ marathons last week, so take it a little easy on the long runs next couple of weeks. 8-12 mile long runs on the weekends, 3-4 additional runs a week.
  • Ramp it up for a couple weeks, 15+ mile runs on the weekends, 3-4 additional runs those weeks.
  • Continue this cycle of easing off, then upping the mileage, ongoing.
  • When I get comfortable with my mileage, and with the idea of running the marathon, schedule one and run it.

This could all be hubris. People have been running huge distances for hundreds of years. But sometimes a culture can get it wrong. We’ll see how this goes.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2014 8:24 pm

    Yay! Go Jen go! Run run run!

  2. August 3, 2014 8:26 pm

    I like your viewpoint on running. It is very different from the conventional stuff I’ve happened across.

    Particularly, “In fact, the goal of non-injury and low pain is far above the marathon goal.” is revolutionary.

    • August 3, 2014 11:28 pm

      I do NOT often get called “revolutionary”. Hm.


  1. I’m running the Big Bend 50 ultra marathon next week | Jen's Blog: We Owls

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