Monday, June 22, 2015

Rob: A Slowpoke's Perspective on Putting in the Distances Part 1

I’m fairly new to the blogging scene and have thus far focused mostly on family related posts. However, I have read lots of great race reviews over the years and I’ve also gotten sucked into reading more than a few running blogs. As I've mentioned in previous posts, running is an emerging passion of mine and I think my complete and unabashed mediocrity gives me a unique perspective.    

I’m not fast.  In fact, I am perhaps the antithesis of fast. In my previous post on The Clydesdale Effect, I provided my interpretation of my heavy horse-like running gait that often leaves me wheezing like an 100 year old man who has just walked up 10 flights of stairs.

Joking aside, I have spent a significant amount of time pounding the pavement over the past few years and have run in my fair share of races including 5ks, 10Ks, 5 milers, 10 milers, two half-marathons and one marathon despite my snail pace.  

While I’m no technical expert and am someone who has never really taken the time to really understand the mechanics of efficient running, I think I’ve grasped the one foot in front of the other basics.  I understand the concepts of pace, tempo runs, LSDs and even the dreaded FARTLEK. Although I will admit I’m a fuzzy on that last one. I feel as though I have spent enough time on the road to give some supportive advice on various aspects of the of the sport for the amateur runner as well as offer suggestions on how to turn running into a family activity.  

A few things to note before we get too far:

If you are a regular runner, please don't judge me too harshly.  I mean no harm and really am in awe of your running prowess.

I am not now, nor will I ever be a great runner.  The intent here is not to teach or coach.  Rather, I want to provide my perspective as someone who has probably done almost everything wrong in training for races. 

The 5K

These races are great for everyone.  It’s an awesome distance for beginners and an even better race to run with the family.  Most kids five and older can handle the distance making it a wonderful way to spend time together as a family in a healthy and fun way.  Who knows maybe you’ll unlock a passion for the sport in one of your little ones and find a new running mate.

While there are the usual jack rabbits in every 5K I have ever run who finish before I even cross the start line, it is the kind of distance where you can leave it all out there.  It’s short enough that, assuming you have been running on a semi-regular basis or are in good shape from other activities, you don’t really need to worry about pace.  You can leave it all on the track and burn rubber.  In my case that's kind of like watching a bear chasing something on the Nature Channel: You’re both shocked that something so large and hairy can move that quickly and a little disturbed all at the same time.

As a non-race training distance, for those who only run occasionally and aren’t really into serious training for any races at the moment, I think it’s the perfect going out for a run distance. Long enough that you feel like you’ve gotten a decent cardio workout while not eating into too much of your day either.  As a father of three kids who works full time, I’ve got to fit the runs in.  Usually this means early in the morning or between meetings at the office which makes the 5km distance perfect for me.  I know there are evening runners out there but as a habitual early bird, unless I’m putting in "serious" training for a longer distance race, I’m too pooped for post sundown runs most of the time.

The 10K

I know lots of people run 10km races all the time and while I think anyone over 10 and under 25 years old can likely finish one without putting in too much training, I would consider tackling a 5km run and building up a bit of a base first. For old farts like me, those who aren't in good shape or haven't had any previous running experience 10km can be a looong run.  I’m not saying you can’t do it but if you aren’t going to enjoy it or are risking injury or worse, why bother without the proper training? Start slowly and work your way up to the distance.  That way when you actually run the race, it’ll be a snap.  

As a family race activity, my kids are a bit too young to run this distance with me but I can certainly envision a day when we might run one or two of these together.

Once you are in full on training mode for longer races like the half or even the full, I found the 10km training run was my absolute favorite.  After running 18km, 20km or even 32km long runs for hours at a time, the 10km was perfect.  Long enough to be a substantial workout, but short enough that unless it was blazing hot, you didn’t need to bring water.  It's the Saturday morning distance that doesn't keep you out too long and doesn't burn you out for the rest of the day like some of those longer distances.

Maybe it’s just me, but I also found it was my push it distance during half or full training.  For me, the 10km run became the distance where I usually found my groove, my zone, my mojo. It's long enough that you need to think a little about pace, but short enough that if you’ve got your jam that day you can throw caution to the wind and give it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I'll provide some truly mediocre tips and tricks on how to prepare for and complete a half and full marathon and be the envy of all your non-running friends.

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