"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fresh Legs Ain't Paid They Dues

Me and my doctors discussing my "anterior pelvic tilt."
 There's a common conversation being held among the older runners at every race I attend. It's about how the best masters runners are johnny-come-latelies (wow, does that make me sound old!), people who just took up the sport and are beating everyone with little training or knowledge - and, worse, think that they know what they're doing because they're winning. It's frustrating and no one seems to know why it's happening or what to do about it.

The standard model for training is: you inprove rapidly for a while, no matter what you do, then you hit a plateau. To improve, you then have to do very hard work, very specific work and a huge volume of work. Then you hit a collapse point, where time constraints (family, career, etc.) and diminishing returns - and usually an injury - make performance drop precipitously. Lastly, there's a long slow decline due to aging.

The top masters haven't followed that pattern. A few talented runners always got by on talent and low mileage and they haven't slowed as much. Some ran on scholarships in college, then took decades off and then started up again. Others started running later in life or switched from other sports.When you suddenly throw 10,000,000 runners into a sport that used to have 10,000 there's going to be a number of supremely talented runners who race well on little or no training. Those who were big fish in a small pond are suddenly small fish in a big pond (again! where did I pick up these old sayings?!)

There's a bunch of us who now have a lot of miles behind us. I have over 85,000. Is there a limit to how much one can run in a lifetime and is there a limit to how many fast miles one can run? And why is it that the very methods we used to reach our peak are now keeping us from continued success? We look at those who beat us and say, "well, if they actually tried, they could be even faster, but they're just playing at the sport we take seriously." And those who are winning are satisfied with winning; they don't wonder how much better they could do, because they don't need to.

None of the old guard have ever made a comeback. I think it's because of damage from chronic overuse injuries. I have achilles tendinosis, hamstring tendinosis and a dozen other problems that come from overuse and poor injury treatment. I also think a comeback is possible - and I think that might be a good focus for a blog.


Anonymous said...

All right! That's more like it!

John K.

Running with MTP said...

I think at times older runners with a lot of experience are handicapped by knowing training worked really well for them in the past ... That same training may be the worst choice in the present.

You knew how to train your 30-40-50 year old body, do you know the best training for your 60 year old body ... I guessing it might be something very different.


SteveQ said...

Hey, Mike, don't age me like that! I'm only 50!

Anonymous said...

I hate it when these guys who have only run a couple of years gets fast.

SteveQ said...

Anon, I'm assuming sarcasm on your part. I don't begrudge anyone success. What bothers me is: someone who runs 3 miles twice a week, then runs a 10K in 37 minutes; then they eat bee pollen and run a 10K in 36 and say "bee pollen cuts a minute off 10K times" and while I try to explain to them that they could run sub-30 if they trained properly, someone else sees that I can't run that fast and says "bee pollen... I'll have to try that."

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the chocolate milk to go along with the bee pollen

Running with MTP said...

Sorry - I thought you had said you were 60 at some point ... my bad. My guess your running body is at least 60 ... for the time being.

Anonymous said...

This is what I was asking you about a month ago. I think that a body is only good for a certain number of years, and then it goes to hell. I have read countless blog posts from ultra runners, and pretty much all of them are currently injured or are trying to recover from an injury. I conclude that running is bad for you. I also mentioned that the only old guys I see running are guys who started after age 40. ( I know there are a few exceptions.) Mainly I'm just pissed that I am 34 and my knees hurt all day every day, and I don't think I'll ever run a race again. (I've been a runner for 19 years, over half of that I weighed about 200-230 lbs.)
Joe G.