For five years, I used to run every Sunday morning, as well as four-to-five other runs each week, with a dozen fellow (kind-of-serious) age group runners. Aging, family moves, injuries, marriage/divorce, role changes and other transitions splintered the group over the next four or five years. Next thing we knew it was little more than my wife and I going out to a location to run our (separate) training runs. At that time we decided the Sunday run needed a little kick in the shorts.
One of the take-aways from our frequent visits to New Orleans was tying in breakfast with the group run, something which our friends in the 5:20 Club have done for a long time. We needed to find runners who were able to handle six-to-eight miles at a time, but didn’t mind spending a little time socializing over breakfast. The most fearful thing about group runs, especially for runners who aren’t fire-breathing, type-A, stay-a-half-step-ahead-of-the-pack types, is that they will be left behind the pack to fend for themselves. After a year we’ve managed to develop a small (core) group of four-and-eight runners. We meet up to run (sometimes walk, depending on aches and pains) every Sunday morning; three or four different locations during the autumn, winter and spring, and on the beach during the summer. We exercise for 60-to-90 minutes, then clean up and sit down for breakfast or brunch.
Running is recreation. For some (like this coach) it is almost an obsession. But for the overwhelming majority of runners it is not a means of earning a living. I receive questions from a lot of people; often they ask about what it will take to improve their 5,000 meter run time, others want to know about training for a marathon. When it all comes down to the nuts-and-bolts of training, of being a runner, perspective is of the greatest importance.
A case in point: my wife’s (Canadian) co-workers and their family members participated in the recent Ottawa Race Weekend (2K and 5K) events on a warm late-May afternoon. That evening, over grilled burgers and chicken, the general consensus of the group was that they enjoyed the event but they all felt some run training would be beneficial. I agreed to provide a simple training plan as long as they (and I) understood: We have demands and commitments which fill the majority of our waking hours.
Starting out as a runner doesn’t necessarily require 60 minutes a day, seven days a week dedication. Most anyone would say that is a recipe for injury, burnout and frustration. Most people who run because they want to improve their health and eventually participate in an organized (short) road race can probably get by with 30 minutes a day for four to five days a week. If you don't have 30 minutes, but you can spare 20, that is better than nothing at all. Does the time have to be completely filled with running? Not necessarily. If you need to walk, walk until you can run again. Add running as you can tolerate. The most important thing in the training – and this goes for more-experienced runners as well as rank newbies – is to BE CONSISTENT.
Inconsistent runners can be, and often are, the type of person Dr. Jack Daniels would classify as “coach frustrators.” We coaches can see the potential within them; they verbally express the desire to do what is necessary to improve, but they are noticeably absent when it comes time to reinforce their talk with effort. The goal for all runners is to develop a consistent running habit; not just to say no to rolling back over in bed after the alarm goes off (which we all fight), but to – at the least – become and stay healthy, lifelong recreational runners.