Coach Joey's Corner: The Trial of Miles; The Miles of Trials

Training Update 1/28 to 2/3

Monday

o   AM: 5.8 at 7:28 pace

o   PM: 8.9 at 7:19 pace with 8 strides

Tuesday

o   10 at 7:17 pace

o   5 at 7:27 pace

Wednesday

o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 4 sets of 4 x 400 with 1 min jog/walk between reps and 3 min jog/walk between sets, 2.3 mile cooldown. Goal was 72-72 on the first three of each set and sub 67 on the last one. Averaged 72.3/66.4

o   PM: 4.8 at 7:58 pace

Thursday

o   AM: 10.8 at 7:25 pace

o   PM: 4.3 at 7:40 pace

Friday

o   AM: 6 at 7:29 pace

o   PM: 5.1 at 7:17 pace

Saturday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 20 miles at 6:36 pace. 12 easy, 4 miles of :30 hard/2:30 at 6:15 pace, 4 miles easy

Sunday

o   AM: off

o   PM: 8 at 7:27 pace

Week Total: 100.1 miles. Solid week, but I was struggling for a lot of it. Wednesday’s workout was much harder because it was quite rainy, and after that I might have forced things too much with the mileage. But I’m still alive so that’s good.  

(Almost) Final Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16 (1st in 49:14)

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

This was a decent week coming off of the 15k last Saturday. I thought Wednesday would be pretty manageable, but on somewhat tired legs and in pouring rain it was a struggle. Luckily I had two friends there to pull me along/occasionally drop me. Managed to get some good mileage in overall though, so I think this would be a good time to let you all in on The Secret.

What’s The Secret?

What’s the secret to becoming a good runner? Is it barefoot running? Eating kale? Playing good music on your iPod? Or maybe it’s having long legs or doing strange exercise. Perhaps you should run as hard as you can twice a week, or run 5ks every weekend, or do some high intensity interval training, or get a fancy GPS watch.

Unfortunately for many confused people, none of those things are the secret. I think John Parker, author of Once a Runner, describes it best:

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.” 
― John L. Parker Jr., Once a Runner

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 This is pretty good book.

 That’s right, the secret to becoming better at running is….running! In fact, if you take a look at the running logs of many serious runners (you can do this exercise on Strava, just let me know if you want some recommendations of good follows!), you will find one common theme: consistently high mileage. The exact number may vary—some people run 80 miles a week, others do 140—but you won’t find anybody crushing the marathon off of 30 miles a week, or taking days off on a very regular basis, or being inconsistent with their training. Consistent mileage over time breeds success in distance running. Accepting this fact is the first step to becoming a better runner.

Of course, there are many ways to skin a cat. There are two runners I follow on Strava, who both qualified for the Olympic Trials last December at the California International Marathon. One of them ran 100-110 miles a week with some very solid, impressive workouts mixed with lots of easy runs at 1-2 min/mile slower than marathon pace. Leading up to the race, it seemed very likely he would qualify. The other runner ran up to 150 miles a week and up to 3 times a day! His workouts were generally much less impressive, and some of his easy runs were more than 3.5 min/mile SLOWER than marathon pace! Leading up to the race, it seemed like he was a long shot to qualify. And yet, he punched his ticket to Atlanta just like the other guy.

The object of today’s post is not to talk about which approach, if either, is best. Rather, I want to illustrate that while the details can vary wildly, there is a common theme. Both men ran what most would consider high mileage, they did it consistently, and they did it for a long time. They went through the trial of miles!

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Unfortunately, this reality doesn’t sell running magazines. In our quick fix, consumerist society we want results quickly with minimal work. So when some article comes out saying you should run hard intervals 3 days a week and take the other days off, people gobble that up. And to be fair, training like that will give you a quick fix—you’ll improve somewhat rapidly over a short period of time. But then that’s it. There will be no long term, consistent improvement. You will not reach your potential.

Of course, if reaching your potential isn’t your goal, then you can just do whatever you want! And for many people that’s the case. Or maybe they do want to reach their potential but just don’t want to accept the work that’s required. But really, it’s not so bad! All it takes is a decent time commitment and a good attitude. The rest is mostly easy running with just a little bit of hard stuff mixed it. So, are you ready to accept the trial of miles?!