Running is a Cruel Mistress

  1. I am not as young as I think I am.
  2. I get injured too often to make any real progress.

In the last two years of my taking running reasonably seriously, these are the two things about myself that I have repeatedly failed to understand. I’ve gotten into a bad pattern where after injury, I upped my mileage too quickly, causing a new injury, causing more time off, and then another quick ramp up of mileage. It just hasn’t worked.

Here’s a chart of my weekly mileage for this year.

That is what running looks like when you cannot stay healthy. In the whole year, I never put together a single sustained period of serious training. No wonder the fall racing season was such a disaster.

What happened? I got greedy and stupid. Repeatedly. I would get up to fifty miles and then do something stupid during a speed workout, get hurt, and have to cut back. Or I’d be training at thirty miles a week and suddenly up it to fifty. These were stupid mistakes that a 22 year old could perhaps have recovered from, but which left this 36 year old limping around the park.

This time, I’m going to go about things old school Sean. I’m going to build up slow and steady, and I’m going to stay healthy for the long term. My best period of running, when my times were coming down, and when I felt the healthiest, was early this summer when I strung together four weeks of forty five plus miles with no speed work.  I want to get back to that level and then stay there. That is going to take some time and I need to remember that.  I’m not built like a runner, I’m not young anymore and it is going to take a longer time and a lot more miles for me to get where I want to be.

I’m currently nursing a fucked up ankle, but once that heals, I’m going to hit the road and do yet another slow buildup of easy miles. No speed work, just slow and steady miles building up over the winter so that when summer finally arrives, I’m not digging out of another injury hole.

Running is a cruel mistress; she will accept no short cuts. I need to remember that.

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  1. sweetopiagirl

    Reblogged this on inspiredweightloss.

  2. smt


    Fifty miles a week is a lot of running. I think it’s really easy to get caught up reading websites/blogs of people who are running 3:05 marathons and training up to 60 mpw and think, oh, ok, I guess that’s what I need to do too — if I just put in enough miles, I’ll be fast too, right? The problem is that you can’t just put in miles to get fast. First you have to build up so that you can run the miles period, then you have to start doing the miles faster, which is like adding even MORE miles on top.

    Also, I know that you are really into your seven days a week of running — even if you just get in a two mile run one of the days — but maybe consider going to 6 days a week with more quality runs? And making sure that all of your runs are a minimum of — well, I would say 40 minutes — to get a benefit out of them? Your weekday runs currently seem a little short compared to your long runs.

    Are you thinking about a marathon for next year? Because now is the perfect time to plan for a FALL marathon for next year! Build up your mileage so that you run 6 weeks @ 40mpw (or 45 if you REALLY want to, I think 40 is PLENTY) with a long run of no more than 12 on the weekend, get some spring races in to improve your speed and maybe add one day of speedwork during that cycle, THEN start building the distances of your long run for a marathon starting in July (or 12 weeks out from your marathon). No one can build a base, work on speed, and build distance capacity all at the same time. I’d basically say you can actually only do one of those at a time. (Of course you do speedwork as you build distance, but hopefully your body is already used to doing the speedwork.) But a year is definitely long enough to develop all three.

    1. seanv2

      As always SMT, you advice is dead on. I’m giving up on the running everyday thing for a while. Hell, I’m not even sure when I’ll get to run again at all. When I do return to running, I’m going to do a build up similar to what you propose and (probably) do a fall marathon. We’ll see though, right now I am pretty down about the bum ankle and trying not to plan too far in the future.

    2. Lisa

      I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusion with my cycling, after feeling like I’ve hit a plateau.

      Hope your ankle gets better, Sean.

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