Most runners, at least the ones I know have a little OCD mixed in with Type A characteristics.
This is not meant to be a negative – as a triathlete I tell everyone I have ADD, OCD and triple TYPE A – try being me!?! It is exhausting some days.
So how am I relating this all to the mileage versus time debate you ask? Well as endurance runners – yes if you run anything over 5km, in my book, you are now an endurance athlete. There are levels but yep you have definitely moved past the 20 minute after work run – and if you can do 10 km in 20 min – well I dislike you a little bit.
Again back to– see the ADD thing I am not kidding – tying this together. Once our mileage goes up and we start doing half marathons, full marathons, ultras and such we start to become more obsessive about our mileage. Especially those who are new to long distance running. There is this fear that if you do not get the exact precise mileage down that the schedule says great catastrophe’s will occur! What are they you ask? Well to name a few:
v How will you be able to up your mileage the next week?
v How will you finish in your goal time?
v How will you EVEN BE ABLE TO FINISH THE RACE AT ALL?!?!?!
There is a real fear that if you do not get the exact, precise mileage done these things will happen. I have heard so often – “we were supposed to do …. km but it was only …. – that was 2 km short” and the intense concern and fear in their voice. I feel empathy for them because I have felt that fear – it is real. However after doing this stuff for 12 years now I am a little more laid back about it. I am not saying I don’t have a small heart palpitation but I recover quickly and shake it off.
So mileage versus time – yep it is important to maintain consistent mileage when training for longer distances and there does have to be increases in a controlled and reasonable way otherwise you will get injured, burnt out and/or not be ready for race day. I mean you are going to have to do a run over 20/25km in training if you want to do a full marathon and still walk the next day. You are going to have to run a few hours in a row. You can not top out all your training runs at 10km and hope to be mobile the next day. What I would challenge the folks that are focused on the actual mileage is to listen to your body and be flexible with the mileage.
There is strong evidence that if you can go out for a 3 – 3.5 hour run a few times in your training you should be okay. For those speedy peeps – you know who you are – you will be able to knock out your 32km run easily in that time and possibly the full 42.2km. I would like to point out though, that there are a few of us runners out there that may take a smidge longer, that we like to savor our run – if you are in the 7 min/km and over group then you need to consider time out there. 3 – 3.5 hours is more of a 24 – 29 km run. Not a great differential but that extra 3km or so is a minimum of 21 more minutes and quite possibly longer if we are training in the right pace/zone. That means for us that as distance increases so does the time out on the road and that can lead to overuse injuries and over training. Hence where the quality of the run should start to take precedent over the quantity.
Running 32km because the schedule says 32km is a good idea but only if it makes sense for you – if you are not feeling well or are slightly injured or have something to do then the world will not end if you cut it short – I promise. You are not a failure and you are not letting yourself down. You are training smart. Maybe the next time you go out for your 10km run you feel great and add on a few km it all works out.
My message here is to stay flexible in your training – don’t be so hard or stringent on yourself – we do this for pleasure, at least I do. By being a little flexible then you have the ability to adapt to what the day hands you and you are not weighed down by expectations or a pedometer.
I did not always believe this – I had to be converted. I mean the schedule is the schedule is the schedule for a reason! (That is the OCD kicking in) My personal conversion happened when I trained for Ironman – not once did I ever run over 3 hours – not once. My coach did not put down mileage for me to run she put down time’s. She said run for 3 hours – the first 20 min run with your heart rate here then go to the is heart rate and maintain for this time, then change to this and such. I am not a fast runner – especially not now since the accident – so in 3 hours I was probably getting in 25 – 27 km – maybe… For Speed workouts she did the same thing 15 min warm up in this zone then 10 min in this zone, 1 min recovery, repeat 8 times then 15 min cool down run.
Riding - I never rode 180 km, again it was based on time – she said 3 hour ride – I rode 3 hours following the parameters she said to. Some days I got farther some days not so much. It was dependent on the route(s) I chose, weather, how I was feeling and such.
I remember feeling incredible anxiety about this method and process but I thought I hired her because she has had success training others this way and I talked with those people and whenever I started to doubt the process I would remember what they told me and I would do it that way.
Now I find that training this way allows me to have the freedom to listen to my body and be okay when a run is a little short or I physically pull out – which I have had to do on my last 2 long runs. I find I have less injuries and more proactive when something starts to ache or hurt and that allows me to return faster and usually keep training. Before I would push now I don’t.
I could have ground it out this past Sunday and got the mileage but from experience and my new understanding of quality vs quantity I know that I will be okay because by pulling out it means I can rehab the injury and get to race day. I won’t kid you it is always hard for me to do this and I do feel a little disappointment in myself. I feel like maybe I am being a wimp and how can I be a group leader if I can’t even do the distance?
Sometimes it is just as coach B says “Playing Smart so that you get to run another day. Not being a hero and ending up being off for 2 months with an injury” So fellow athletes don’t sweat it if you are short a bit or need to call it you will still get to race day if you train smarter not necessarily harder.