SLOW AND STEADY!

80/20 wins the race!

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, runner Emil Zátopek of Czechoslovakia won 3 gold medals. He took running’s highest honor at the games  in both the 5,000 (24 July 1952)and 10,000 (20 July 1952)  meter runs, and then decided AT THE LAST MINUTE to run the marathon (27 July 1952) FOR THE FIRST TIME!  Zátopek is the ONLY runner to win all three gold medals at the same Olympic games.  Runner’s World Magazine declared him to be the greatest runner of all time in 2013. He pioneered the use of High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T) known to most runners today just as intervals or speed-work.

Zátopek was a beast! A force of nature. His grueling training regiment topped out at 175 miles (281.63 kilometers) per week! Protégés who attempted to mimic his training methods burned out after a few years, or seriously injured themselves.

Speed-work is the most widely embraced method to improve running performance, BUT it is NOT the ONLY way. It is possible to get fast by going SLOW!

An unlikely coincidence

When Emil Zátopek first hit upon the idea of H.I.I.T (pun intended) he was working in a shoe factory in Zlin, Czechoslovakia. A couple of years later on the other side of the world, Arthur Lydiard was working in a shoe factory in Auckland, New Zealand.  He came up with the notion that the key way to maximize running fitness was by tacking on distance running at a slow pace. A quantity over quality approach designed to build up stamina and endurance.  Lydiard fancied himself to be in fantastic shape. He played rugby! One fateful day, his friend Jack Dolan (a central figure in the Auckland running community) goaded Arthur into running against him in a 5 mile race. Needless to say, rugby training doesn’t carry over well into short distance running. Lydiard got his ass kicked by Dolan. The race nearly killed him. His humiliation at the hands of his friend was what lead him to the idea of adding distance and decreasing the pace. 

Lydiard realized that no runner, regardless of training or ability, can sustain their top speed for more than  half a mile. After that, their pace would decrease incrementally over distance as fatigue set in. Any runner who has run middle to long distance races is familiar with the concept that it’s not the distance that kills you, it’s the pace. Runners who shoot out like jackrabbits at the start of the race sometimes find themselves being passed by runners who slowly crept back up by running at a much slower race.

Arthur Lydiard spent many months perfecting his slow training method. At the height of his training, he was running 250 miles (402.3 kilometers) a week!  This proved to be too much.  Lydiard soon realized that he felt best when running 100 to 120 miles per week, and that he could always run again after a day of training if he kept the pace slow. He also played with the pace, alternating distances, etc.

Once he had it all figured out, his typical training week was:

  • Monday 10 miles
  • Tuesday  15 miles
  • Wednesday  12 miles
  • Thursday 18 miles
  • Friday 10 miles
  • Saturday 15 miles
  • Sunday 24 miles

Arthur Lydiard never personally won a Gold medal at the Olympics, but he did coach protégés who took 2 gold medals at the 1960 games in Rome. His training methods evolved into what is known as 80/20 running. the 80/20 rule of running training states that 80% of your weekly training time should be done at an easy effort level, with 20% consisting of harder running. Getting the miles is more important than speed-work. This flies in the face of logic for many, but the idea is about maintaining your heart rate in certain zones, while training your mind that this running thing ‘isn’t so bad’.  Your pace should be below the ventilatory threshold, meaning that you can carry on a conversation while running,  and you are not winded and gasping for air.

If I only had a brain…

Running is more of a mental discipline than it is physical. As your body grows fatigued, your brain begins to say STOP. You start thinking to yourself ‘I can’t do this anymore’. Here’s the thing, our bodies are capable of going further even though our minds are telling us that we can’t do this anymore. It’s like a fail-safe. We ‘think’ we are at our limit, so our mind tells us to stop, but in reality we can push ourselves much further than we thought possible. By focusing on distance rather than time, we train the body and the mind at the same time. By keeping our heart rate in a lower zone by running at a slower pace, we can run further without setting off the mental alarm bells telling us to STOP! It really is all in your head.

The week of SLOW

The biggest mind challenge for the runner is to keep a slow pace while knowing that you can run much faster.  This is about distance, NOT time. When we race, we want the best time. 80/20 training is all about keeping it slow and steady. Training should never be at your race pace! 80% of your runs should be done at low intensity. You should feel like you can just keep running all day if you had to.  You were born to run! Running is as natural as breathing. You wouldn’t stop breathing because  you were too tired, would you? The remaining 20% of your training is done at moderate to high intensity, but also just shy of race pace.

AGAIN training is NOT racing. Save that burst of incredible speed for the big race, but don’t run so fast that you burnout 20% short of the finish line. Smile and wave as you pass the jackrabbits who shot ahead at the start.

80/20 vs the Clydesdale

Clydesdales are a race horse of a different color, and 80/20 training is a trickier proposition. A Clydesdale is a term for an larger, overweight runner. We are a separate racing division , pursing our own path to fitness. Depending on what source you site, the pace between running and walking transitions between 12mph and 15mph. Clydesdales usually run at a much slower pace than the average runner, so there is much less wiggle room to run slow. I am a Clydesdale, and the struggle is real. No Clydesdale is ever going to burn up the track and take 1st place overall in a race unless that horse is on fire!

My fastest pace mile to date is 10min 1sec. My average pace is between 12min and 13min per mile. I can sustain a 12 minute per mile pace for up to one hour, after that my pace drops like a rock. This is why I am studying 80/20 running vs. High Intensity Interval Training. This body was not built for speed.

A skinny runner who can manage a 6-minute mile can effortlessly transition to a 12-minute mile. A Clydesdale who already runs at a 12-minute mile is hardly running much slower at a 15-minute pace by comparison.

If a ‘skinny’ runs 5 miles at a 6min pace, they are done in 30 minutes. A Clydesdale running a 12min pace takes ONE HOUR to cover the same distance. Our race takes longer, and the mental fatigue telling us to give up is that much more intense at the finish. The ONLY way to overcome this is to condition our mind and body toward increased stamina and endurance via 80/20 training.

For more information on 80/20 running, I highly recommend the book 80/20 RUNNING by Matt Fitzgerald. The book also contains dozens of pages of training plans for 5K to full marathon, and was used as the source material for this article.

You can find me at these upcoming races:

JULY 2021

Third Thirsty Thursday   5K Race Series – Race 4/7 July 15 @7:00 pm Reading PA

Be sure to check back  on July 25th for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

THE TRAINING EFFECT!

THE TIME  vs. THE TOLL

THE TRAINING EFFECT

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.– Isaiah 40:31

I have been in training for months now as I prepare to EVENTUALLY run my first marathon. I was originally planning to run in the Philadelphia Marathon, but it was cancelled this year. I am now HOPING instead that I can run in the Gettysburg Marathon, assuming it too, does not get cancelled. Unfortunately In my case two things have been affecting my training.

First,  my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article.  Sometimes I do not have time to finish and post these articles because I MUST go running.  

Second, we’ve been having a heat wave here in South Central Pennsylvania and working 10 to 12 hour shifts 6 days a week in 95°F heat with high humidity has left me drained and exhausted.  Last Sunday I barely was able to run 9.5 miles, and I had zero energy after work to go running all week. I work outside all day, and usually walk a distance of about 7 miles. Today I was planning on running 15 miles, and again on next Sunday, but it is raining! My training is suffering as a result, but as I stated in my opening paragraph I am currently unsure  when or if I will be running a marathon this year. I do have three very important upcoming races this month, so the lack of ability to train has me greatly concerned. I’m running the Thirsty Thursday Races on August 6th and 20th, as well as the Double Trouble 15K/30K Trail run on August 16th. Training for these races is crucial!

WHAT IS TRAINING?

Athletes are often ‘in training’ for upcoming competitions of one form or another. Training is NOT the same as ‘working out’. Simply going to the gym a couple of times a week is just a normal part of being physically fit. Some type of regular exercise is needed to be healthy, there are just no ‘if, ands, or buts’ about it. Exercise can be anything from walking to riding a bike riding, lifting weights, or just going push-ups and sit-ups.

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Training is a programmed series of exercise routines of increasing duration and frequencies, conducted over a period of several weeks or months, the purpose of which is to take the athlete to a higher level of personal physical performance. It is a battle against entropy. It is how a 40-something can beat a 20-something in a race. It is a way of maintaining that peak level of health and strength that the young take for granted.  The harder you train, the better you are.

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Most runners use the Hal Higdon marathon training program, or some variation of it.  Hal Higdon is a writer, coach, and former marathon runner. He has run over 111 marathons and written 34 books on running. His proven training methods have stood the test of time.  The basic training plan is a 20 week regiment of speed training, cross training, and a weekly long run of increasing distance, followed by a rest day.  It can be found online for free. Although the information is readily available, training does have a cost. Time and commitment!

 If you do not stick to the program, you will not achieve the desired effects. You MUST do the exercises, and you MUST put in the time. An ‘accountability buddy’ can help you stick to the plan, so find a friend and go run!

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Skipping one week of training can undo two or more weeks of progress. Your muscles start to stiffen up and your body enters a reverse mode where it heads back to its normal resting point. Likewise it is just as possible to maintain the physical level achieved at the end of the training program by continuing to do those activities. This is why some highly competitive athletes are ALWAYS ‘in training’ and tend to be in the top spot for a very long time.

UNFORTUNATELY, the difference between the professional athlete and the amateur is that for the professional their sport IS their JOB, whereas the amateur must still try to fit in a full-time day job to pay the rent.  A profession athlete can achieve amazing, even super-human achievements if they have someone else providing them with a constant source of revenue.  

THE MARATHON OF HOPE!

In 1977, Canadian distance runner Terry Fox lost his leg due to bone cancer. He was walking again in just three weeks and soon began an aggressive 14 month marathon training program. In 1980, he sought sponsorship and donations to fund a bold attempt to run the entire length of Canada in the hope of increasing cancer awareness.  Starting on April 12, 1980 Terry Fox began running the equivalent of a marathon EVERY DAY for 143 consecutive days, with an artificial leg! He had to abandon his 5000 mile quest on September 1st 1980 because his cancer had spread to his lungs. He ran a total of 3,339 miles. Nine months later he succumbed  to the disease and passed away on June 28th, 1981 at age 22. He is considered a Canadian national hero and there are statues, parks, roads, and buildings named in his honor.  His effort raised $1.7 million for cancer research.

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500 Marathons in 500 Days! (And then some…)

Ricardo Abad Martínez is a Spanish ultrarunner and holds the Guinness World Record for most consecutive marathons, 607!  Originally the plan was 500 Marathons in 500 Days,  but upon completion of the goal on  February 12, 2012, he upped the ante and proclaimed he would attempt another 500 bringing to proposed target to 1000 marathons in 1000 days. Unfortunately he failed to secure funding to finance his endeavor and he abandoned his plan after he ran his 607th marathon.  He was 42 at the time. More impressive was the fact that he did while working a full-time job at a factory. In some cases, he even ran two marathons in less than 12 hours depending on if he ran after work, or before his shift began.    

In my case, my day job has been hammering me with forced overtime for weeks now. In this past two week pay period i worked 129.25 hours. My ONLY day off is Sunday, and that day is designated by my training plan as my long run day. Sunday is also the day I TRY to write a weekly article. I apologize to my regular readers if it’s been hit or miss lately,  but I’ve been a tad overwhelmed by everything. I’m hoping the rain stops at some point today so that I can at least do a short run. As always I wish you success and happiness!

ROAD DUST?

Pick yourself up after a setback!

ROAD DUST

Since the beginning of the year, I have been in training to run my first marathon. If the idea of months of training for one event does not make sense, allow me to explain. One does not simply decide to run a marathon on a whim. Running 26.2 miles in seven hours or less is a physically taxing task which is beyond the ability of most people.  It doesn’t matter what’s your motivation, if you do not put in the time and effort to condition your body to its best possible shape, you will risk injury and possibly even death.

Three years ago, running a marathon was the furthest thing from my mind. I weighed 325 lbs and was most likely on my way to an early grave. I considered myself both worthless and hopeless. My ‘wake-up’ call was having 3 of my co-workers ( 2 were good friends ) die from heart attacks. All of these men were in their 50’s and overweight. At that moment I knew that if I didn’t take immediate steps to reclaim my health while still in my 40’s, I would soon pass the point of no return. I began focusing on m diet until I found a plan that was right for me. Then I started exercising, and eventually stated running.  I’ve lost over 90 lbs since I began this journey of self discovery.  I am now back down to what I weighed in college and am in better physical shape than I was when I was 25 years old.

Last April, I ran my very first road race. It was the Beat Beethoven 5K at Alverina University held on Sunday April 28th, 2019. Slowly increasing my strength, stamina, and endurance I was eventually running half marathons by Autumn.  I ran eleven official races in 2019 and had planned on more than twice that number for 2020 as I built myself up for the November 2020 Philadelphia Marathon.

2020 started out looking very hopeful until COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world struck. Suddenly all the races from mid March through Summer and part of the Fall were cancelled. Undaunted, I pressed on in my training by signing up for dozens of virtual races. There were a couple of weeks were I ran in 5 days everything from a 5K up to a half-marathon tracking the times and distances with my professional runners smart-watch,  a Garmin 945 Forerunner. The Philadelphia Marathon was still slated as of two weeks ago, and I was greatly encouraged by  this fact. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed to pieces last week when the Philadelphia mayor arbitrarily decided to ban all large gathering though February 2021, and the Governor of Pennsylvania doubled-down on his draconian laws shutting down the state.  As of this moment, my path forward has been made unclear and uncertain due to this unexpected setback.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans

Hitting a stumbling block and getting knocked to the ground is the point at which most people give up. For them, their dream has died and they will forever be a failure. Successful people get up, dust themselves off and pick up where they left off. VERY successful people examine what knocked them down, formulate a plan to prevent similar setbacks, and take a moment to decide on their best course of action BEFORE dashing ahead blindly.

Living in ‘the pause’.

Pause powers performance! –Kevin Cashman

In his powerful book on success, The Pause Principal, Kevin Cashman uses the acronym VUCA two ways, first to describe our world, then to tell us how we must react to it.

Our would is:

  • Volatile
  • Unpredictable
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

Life is not about what happens to us, but how we react to it! We need to pause, and take a step back to move forward.

Our reaction should be comprised of:

  • Vision
  • Understanding
  • Clarity
  • Agility

Failure is PART of success

Failure is a powerful tool if used wisely. IF a person succeeded at every task they attempted on the very first try, they would never have the impetus to improve themselves. They would never be forced to try harder. They would take for granted every accomplishment as an entitlement that they deserved matter-of-factually.  Failure is part of life! Failure is NOT the end. It only becomes the end IF you QUIT! Quitting IS the end! Quitting IS giving up! Quitting IS DEATH!

“I’m a big advocate of personal responsibility. You do whatever you feel is safe, within reason. You know what’s best for you.” – Ron Horn CEO Pretzel City Sports

On Thursday July 16th, 2020 races returned to Reading PA for the first time since the shut down. At Trooper Thorns,  98 fellow runners and myself gave it our all as we ran the first official 5K race in over four months. It was the most exciting and amazing race I have run thus far and I gave it 110%!  I was ahead of my friend Steve Capozello for an entire 5 seconds, but kept pace with him neck and neck for the next 30-45 seconds as we raced down the trail like two rabid Clydesdales intent on trampling anyone that got in our way. Unfortunately my pace began to slip as Steve is a much faster runner than I am, and he has been running for over 20 years. Slowly he kept pulling further away from me as I tried to keep up by sheer willpower alone!  By the end of our run, I was only 10 minutes behind my friend.  Iron sharpens iron. My blue shirt was drenched with sweat from the effort, and I changed into a dry green shirt that was in my gym bag.

At the awards ceremony, Ron Horn called out the various winners by divisions, ages, and genders.

When he called out my name for 5th place winner in the Male Clydesdales division, I was stunned and said “what?” in total shock. After a back and forth of “who?” and “ME?” pointing at myself,  he said “YOU!”  pointing at me as the third prompting to come get my medal. I had set a Personal Record and  I accepted my first ever medal for placing in the TOP 5 with tears in my eyes.   

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My friend Steve took 2nd place. Another friend Gina took first place in the Women’s 30-39 group.

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If I had quit running after everything got shut down by the coronavirus, I would not have signed up for a 12 week virtual running series. If I had quit training due to the unpredictable and ambiguous fate of my November 22 marathon, I would never have gotten faster, stronger, and  better. Quitters NEVER win, but winners NEVER QUIT! I have the understanding that The 2020 Philly Marathon is dead, but I also have the clarity of vision that there will be another marathon and I must keep training. I AM A WINNER! Hopefully my example will encourage and inspire you to overcome whatever setback you may be facing. As long as you don’t quit, you too will have your day, and you’ll be able to sit back and reflect upon your accomplishment with pride! As always I wish you success and happiness!

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