Runners do like to share
by Ron Marinucci, Jul. 29, 2009
Runners do like to share
Many runners, especially veterans, will recognize the name Joe Henderson. He is one of my favorite running writers (or is it writing runners?). Some may remember him (before Scott Hubbard) for his expert color work on WFUM when the Crim was televised and his talks at the expos there. In addition to his many books, Henderson wrote a weekly online newsletter, Commentary.
In an old issue of Commentary, Henderson reminded us of the wisdom of the late Dr. George Sheehan. Sheehan died in 1993 and was widely acknowledged to be the resident philosopher on the sport of running (as well as having interesting ties to the Crim, too).
Henderson recalled Sheehan’s sage advice: Don’t tell us what to do. Tell us what you do.
On the whole, many runners do just that. Look around at your next race or group run. Before and after, runners are clustered around each other. Some, no doubt, are engaging in that other great sport of runners—grousing.
We love to complain about our running, training, and racing. “I don’t have enough time.” “I haven’t been able to run since _____” (you fill in the blank). “I hurt my _____” (again, fill in the blank).
But it won’t take long before you hear runners talk about what they’ve been doing. “I added some hills.” “I’m going to the track once a week.” “My long run is longer.”
It’s not hard to pick up tips. Runners aren’t afraid to share or even boast about what they’re doing. In fact, if you ask another runner, you’re likely to get more advice than you expected.
Some of my favorite training books are not the ones that tell me what to do, that is, how to train. They are the ones that explain what others do. Two that immediately come to mind are Running with the Legends by Michael Sandrock and The Runners’ Book of Training Secrets by Ken Sparks and Dave Kuehls.
Now, I don’t mean to suggest that I follow the training schedules that the world class runners profiled in these books do. I can’t do 100-mile weeks. I’m not able to match their repeat sessions on the track. I’m like most runners. I don’t have the time, the physical capabilities, and so on to do what the very best do.
But we can discover how others train, then think about it, and try some things for ourselves. Not everything will work for us the way it works for others. Some of the things we can adapt to our workouts and they will make a difference. And, depending on the circumstances—training for particular events, getting older, returning from injuries, etc.—we can even change our training patterns.
This is what Sheehan meant. Many times he wrote, “Each of us is an experiment of one.” Once we realize this isn’t as hokey as it sounds, that it is the ultimate truism, we can use it. We have a responsibility, he emphasized, to do the best that we can on any particular day. Tell us what you do. We can try it out in our own personal laboratories—ourselves!
Runners do like to share. They are not secretive or selfish about their training methods. In fact, I think they enjoy trying to help other runners become better.
I’ve been running for almost 35 years, racing for more than 20. Having played the ball sports as a youth and in high school and college, I have no track or cross country experience and no coach’s words from which to draw. By no means do I consider myself an expert on running (or anything else!); many runners know much more than I do. Nor am I coach. But, in the spirit of Dr. Sheehan, here are a few things, in no particular order, that I do with my running.
**I take it easy. That’s my euphemism for rest, which to many runners is truly a “four-letter word.” I plan rest days and even weeks. Rest can mean not running or exercising at all. It can also be times I take a walk. A rest day might also be a short, easy run. To test “easy,” I don’t use a heart-rate monitor or even a watch. If I can breathe solely through my nose, it’s an easy run. If I can’t, I slow to a walk, then start running, and try the nose-breathing test again.
**I run hard, at least harder than I usually do. This doesn’t contradict “taking it easy.” What is “hard,” then? While training for a specific race, for instance, now the Crim, it might mean hill repeats. There are tempo runs, too. It might mean one day a week at the track and a threshold run a few days later. Otherwise, it can be as simple as picking up the pace for a mile or two on a daily run once or twice a week or some version of fartleks. Runs that are faster than normal pace feel good—stretching out and sweating more.
**I run with a group. One or two runs a week with others are great. Call them social activities or even therapy. We never run out of subjects to discuss and nothing is taboo. They work to make running more enjoyable.
**I run alone. Just as I’d hate to give up my group runs, I relish my solitude. Thinking, relaxing, planning, dreaming…. It works to make running more enjoyable.
**After a long run or tough workout, I reach for a sports drink and a liquid supplement, such as Slim Fast, especially if I plan on another long or tough one in a few days. Not everything works for everyone. Recently, upon others’ advice, I tried a glass or two of chocolate milk after long runs. Nope, it didn’t work for me, leading to much gastro-intestinal distress! “Each of us is an experiment of one.”
**I find a few new places to run each year or even more often. Sometimes it’s as simple as combining parts of several old routes or running the same course backward, from finish to start. That’s enough to provide a new look.
**Weight training and stretching are regular parts of my running routine. I try to stretch at least every other day, usually more often. Using light weights—OK, sometimes I used to “max out” just to see if I could still keep up with Matt; I couldn’t—I lift three or four times a week, a half dozen or more different exercises, with lots of repetitions.
**I read a lot about running, health, and general overall fitness. Readings include magazines, books, and newsletters, online and hardcopy. It’s great to discuss what I’ve read with Dr. Lobo during my annual physical.
**On the drive to races and even before some long, tough workouts, instead of a sports drink, I’ll have a soda (not diet) that contains caffeine.
**I alternate pairs of shoes, often three pairs. The initial outlay of money was a bit much, but usually only one or two pairs need to be replaced at a time. And, the shoes last longer, saving money, and regain more of their resilience/cushioning between runs, giving my feet and legs some help.
**More often than not, I find myself running by time, not mileage. To satisfy my former obsession with counting miles, I would estimate from my perceived pace. It seemed to work pretty well and, if I checked later on the mileage, it was pretty accurate. Especially now, it’s good enough.
**I keep a daily log, even if I don’t run. It includes miles, course/route, other exercise activities such as biking, lifting, and even mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, weather, running partners, now I felt, and other various thoughts. One of my favorite entries included, “Seven deer swimming across the Huron River.” I still have the image in my mind.
**I listen to other runners. I learn what works for me and what doesn’t
The next time you’re with a group of runners, tell them what you do and then listen to what they do. We will all benefit.