Saturday, October 18, 2008

Newton's Rule #3 for Runners

Rule #3: Train first for distance, later for speed.

My junior year in high school, I finally made the track team. (I had been trying to make the team every year since 8th grade but always cut before the season started.) In yesterday's blog I shared that in October of my junior year, I started training every day. With the help of Coach D, I started to run 5 to 7 times a week. I ran 5 to 10 miles. I ran fast and slow. I ran several road races. Then in February, I tried out for the track team and earned a spot on the distance team.

The school's track coach was the football coach, and gym teacher...typical of most southern towns. But what that really meant was the coach only knew one thing. Push and work as hard as you can. And our workouts reflected this mentality. The first day of practice we ran a 1/2 mile warm up, and then ran 4x440 yards at full speed, finally we finished the workout with 4x880 yards at full speed. The next day the work out was the same and the day after that and the day after that. You get the picture. One day of pain after the next.

Lucky for me, Coach D pulled me aside and told me Newton's 3rd rule. During my second week on the track team, I "pulled a muscle" and need to jog the practice. The next day, I ran the workout. Then that "pulled muscle" bit the next day and so I jogged for 5 miles. The next day I ran the workout. So right in front of my "track" coach, I was really doing my own workouts.

In order to race a distance such as a mile, or 5K race, or a marathon, you first need to be able to run that distance. Speed work is the sharpening edge that you bring to finish off the whole race. This past year, my goal was to be able to run a marathon. I can do that with no question in my mind. But now the question becomes how fast can I do it. So this year, my training is focused on getting my body to tolerate the pain of running a marathon faster. It will be a slow process, but it can only be done once you have the ability to run the distance.

My advice to anyone running a new distance; never aim at running a world record. Save the speed for the next race after you know you can run the distance. You will do so much better.

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