So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Running Legends and Urban Legends

Here goes one of those posts which is guaranteed to infuriate some, aggravate others & most likely reinforce my status in the eyes of some as a complete flaming...well, you can fill in the rest of the statement.

I recently read a former Olympian described by someone as a running & coaching legend. As I read the statement I sat back & gave what my old coach would have described as the classic 'oh? Really?' response. First thing I had to do is pull out my reference materials, especially what I consider the mack daddy of all running texts, Lore of Running.As a guy who coaches runners (some face-to-face, some remotely) & sometimes has the chance to answer questions about physiology, training, & injuries, this 700-plus-page text could be the answer to the 'if you could only purchase & use one running-related book, which would it be?' question.
So, rather than buy into anecdotal evidence, assertions & claims of improving a marathon time between 15 & 45 minutes by a particular training plan, I looked at the science. When Timothy Noakes, a physician & ultramarathoner, uses your training plan & the word heresy in the same sentence, well, Sarah Palin would possibly say your plan was refudiated.
So I show this information to my wife. She begins to tell me, 'well, he's doing something good for the running community. He's gotten a bunch of people off the couch & onto the roads.' Yes, but how many people are buying the lie that if you can walk 26 miles you can complete a marathon without hurting yourself? You mean there aren't people who don't get injured by that particular plan?

Noakes, in his tome, (which in the section on training commonalities between the legends and experts of the sport) refers to research refuting a relationship between a high/low volume training plan & an improvement in marathon performance. Frankly, the first challenge of marathon training - for each individual - is finding the plan which works best for their lifestyle, gets them to the starting line on the day ready to do their best, & allows them to - as he mentions in his 15 laws of training - get the best performance on the least amount of training possible.
I've done three marathons in the past two decades. In fact, my first marathon was my first road race of any sort, so I might have been a forerunner of the follower of urban legend number 783: anybody with enough guts (and a lack of intellect) can finish a marathon. I did my first marathon on a low-volume plan of 35-to-40 kilometers a week, hit the wall at 14 miles & dragged myself in under four-and-a-half hours. Ignorance is bliss.

My other two marathons were done during periods of higher training volume, with a blend of long runs, speed work, tempo runs & recovery efforts. I fell ill during the last month of training for marathon number two, & injured myself on my last long run preparing for marathon number three.
Not everyone is built to handle the stress of marathon training, regardless of whether the plan is high-volume, low-volume. Not everyone is meant to participate in marathons. And, I firmly believe, anyone who gets off the couch to run should think about training for shorter distance events first. Find the distance you love to race - balance the challenge with the amount of volume needed to properly train. And move incrementally up the distance chain - 5k, 8k, 10k, 12k, 15k, 21k, etc., if you are going to eventually try a marathon.

Even though there are 20 books out there which say you can, you don't have to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good Post