It’s hard to try to write a blog about running when you can’t run!! But, despite still feeling a “pain in a rare-end (=sciatica)”, surprisingly, my running has been going fairly good! (Yay!!) Actually quite surprisingly, when I first tried to come back to running after my quad soreness (from skiing) got eased up, which is about a month ago, after about a month of lay-off, I struggled to run for 20-minutes. It was painful… But then I remembered what Barry Magee – bronze medal in Rome Olympic marathon behind Abebe Bikila – told me when I first visited him in New Zealand. He was, at the time, about 50. He told me that, for the first time in a long while, he followed the full Lydiard training schedule (from the 1983 book; “Running with Lydiard”). “I did 100-miles a week, did all the hill training, repetitions and 50/50… And my time is only a minute away from the world record for 50-year-old!” Well, not quite that level, but I thought; “Okay, I’d follow the beginner’s plan as prescribed by Arthur Lydiard…” My running has been quite sporadic; I was running over an hour here and there for the last couple of years but it has been nothing more than a simple “maintenance”. Then I saw myself doing hill training…!! I’ve got to do something about “getting back in shape”!!
So Arthur said; “Keep it slow (Train, Don’t Strain!!)…” and “you get to the point where you can run for 15-minutes without stopping.” Well, barely there now!! Now, “every second or third day or thereabout, you go 30-minutes…” It is this longer runs, Arthur claimed, that develops MUSCULAR ENDURANCE and that’s how you develop the ability to go further and further. I kept the shorter days about 20-minutes but I could increase my longer runs up to 45-60 minutes fairly easily. It is a simple principle of “Hard-Easy” as popularized by Bill Bowerman. At first, actually, I had a hard time doing 3 long runs. So I did 45-minutes on Wednesday and over an hour on Saturday. I like to try to get back in shape cold-turkey; my wife always warns me that I’d get hurt doing it this way. But, once I make up my mind, I like to just “go for it” so I would try to run everyday.
I always look at one-hour, hour-and-a-half, and then two-hours to be a hurdle of a sort. Whenever I try to come back to running, or a business of getting-back-in-shape, I look at one-hour as the first thing to reach – whatever the pace may be. “…It is the time he can spend on his legs that count…,” Arthur wrote in “Run to the Top”, “we won’t worry if he covers ten miles in an hour or only six, so long as he runs for that hour.” “It is much better to go too slowly at first than too fast,” Arthur said in “Running with Lydiard”. If you start out too fast, you may have to finish your run prematurely and may not be able to cover necessary volume. It is now a known fact that the DURATION of the exercise is what develops the number and the size of mitochondria which is the powerhouse in our muscle cells. It is also researched that one of the characteristics of Kenyan elite distance runners is – yup you’d guessed it – the number and the size of mitochondria. In a wonderful short documentary movie called “On The Run”, you’ll see Arthur running with Heather Thompson, the Commonwealth Games silver medalist, telling her: “Slow down, slow down…!! Speed is not important but distance…” Or, should we say now “duration”.
I almost always feel that, as I go over these hurdles one by one, the rate at which my fitness level improves seems to accelerate. With a tingling butt (;o)), I challenged 1:45 a few weeks ago. The trail was a bit icy with some melted snow – this was good because it forced me to slow down. It was one of those days; at about 45-minutes, I felt real good and thought; oh, hell, I’ll go a bit further… Perhaps a bit too early cuz I had to pay for it in the following few days!! But I kept thinking about the phrase in “Run to the Top”, that: “…he may be forced on succeeding nights to run at a slower pace, but a week later he will feel the benefit of that fatiguing effort in a surge of fresh power.” After struggling a few days (to be honest…), particularly the next weekend’s long run, one after that, last weekend, I went for a nice 1:30 run, this time not on the trail but on the undulating road – felt the need for hills to strengthen my quads after the ski injury. It was the second half of this particular run, it was like little Forest Gump running when his leg braces fell out and started running freely… I thought I would try to run 1:40 and turned around after 49-minutes…and ended up running the second half 4-minutes FASTER!!
When I talked with Barry Magee who probably understands Marathon Conditioning better than most; he told me that, after 3-4 weeks of “plodding”, it all of a sudden becomes “running”, then it becomes “flying”…!! “Now you are becoming ‘CONDITIONED’!!” he said. “There’s no fun in ‘plodding’…” Far too many people never realize what they can do because they never go through the business of “conditioning” which is to develop your aerobic condition. Far too many people think, in order to run faster, you’ll need to try to run faster. They try to “force” themselves to move faster. But, if you do it right, it actually comes naturally. Yesterday, I went on to run my “usual” hour’s run. I know where my 30-minute turn-around point is. For this instance, I ran to this turn-around point in 28-minutes, and went on to run a few more minutes just to get it to 31-minute… After turning around, I ended up running the second half 2-minute faster. I just couldn’t run any slower!! (as Barry said) Not quite flying…yet. ;o) But definitely, now running is a lot more enjoyable.
(＊We had incorporated exactly the same principles in creating Beginner’s Plans for our on-line Lydiard training program, Running Wizard: get you up to an hour’s run safely and effectively… It really DOES work!!)