I've been entertained lately with runners who think they have all the answers and are still in their 20's. There's no point in trying to show them where they're going wrong, as they won't pay attention; I was exactly the same at their age. Not that anyone's really paying attention to me anyway - I've been checking behind the scenes to see who's reading what on this blog and it looks like people take a glance at what I wrote last and then check my blogroll.
There's not much one can learn from success, compared to with what comes from failure. A good example was when I first started running ultras and had terrible problems with hand swelling. I asked around and, almost without exception, top runners said it had never happened to them. A few said they'd had it once and did something like drink some water and/or eat something salty and the problem went away. Runners who frequently had the problem said there was nothing to be done - you just have to live with it. The moral: good runners are good runners because they don't experience any problems (great runners, on the other hand, overcome obstacles). For the record, the swelling problem for me is positional: if I can keep my hands high, they swell less - unfortunately, then I have problems with arm muscle fatigue.
When I hit an early peak in my running career, dropping my marathon time from 3:05 to 2:42 in 18 months, I expected I'd continue to excel. When I didn't, there just happened to be a bunch of training manuals being published (it was during the running boom of the early '80s), and I looked to see what I might glean from them. They were all drastically different from each other and the overlap was about what I was doing. One that I particularly liked - now out of print - had training plans for marathon times of 2:20, 2:30, 2:40, 2:50, 3:00, 3:10, etc., rather than "one size fits all." I looked at the 2:40 plan and saw I couldn't do ANY of the workouts. I couldn't do the 2:50 ones, either. I could do most, if not all of the 3:00 ones, but only one or two per week, not the 4 or 5 harder runs each week. In the forward, the coach gave an anecdote of one of his athletes, being given a schedule, looked at it and said, "But I can do ALL of these workouts!" thinking that they should progress to beyond what he could do currently.
What was my problem?! Further investigation showed that he'd have a runner capable of say, a 2:50 marathon, having just run a 10K under 36 minutes, but who's best marathon time was 3:15. Then he'd coach them to run 3:00 and, when they set a PR of 3:09, they'd be overjoyed. He was simply cherry-picking underachievers!
I'm seeing a ton of that now on blogs: every race, someone dropping their PR a few seconds and getting kudos from their friends, when they're running essentially a moderate training run. Then they go on to tell the "secrets" of their success.
... but they haven't learned anything about racing. They haven't "raced."
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6 days ago