I have a problem. Luckily, I have realized that I suffer from this issue, but even so, it can be difficult to separate myself from it. You see, I like to run. But that in itself is not the problem per se. The problem is that I find it relatively easy to run a lot, and sometimes how much I run becomes a goal in and of itself. I make the number of miles I run in a week a goal, and then that can take precedence over the real goal, which is running fast.
Part of the problem is that it’s very easy to think that more mileage equals faster times. Typically, this is true. If Runner A can finish a 5K in 20 minutes by running 20 miles per week, chances are he can cut that down to 19 minutes by gradually and intelligently increasing to 40 miles per week. But, as is the case with just about anything, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Does it stand to reason that this runner could cut another minute off his time by increasing by another 20mpw? Probably not. He might get to 18:30, but he may have to double his mileage again to 80mpw in order to run 18:00. However, at this mileage, he runs a far greater chance of either getting injured, or being too fatigued to actually run well. Every runner has a sweet spot where mileage and workouts combine to produce the best possible results. Finding this balance can be tricky.
In the past, I have found great success by running relatively high mileage (70-100mpw). I feel strong and fit when running high mileage, and that provides me with a mental boost as well as physical. However, I have found that this really only works when I am marathon training, and not doing a whole lot of running faster than half marathon pace. When I am training for a fast 5K, as I am now, the workouts take a much bigger toll on my body, and I have to drastically reduce the mileage in order to recover fully. This is sometimes difficult for me to accept. Intellectually, I know that running 50mpw and running good workouts is a smarter way to train for a fast 5K for me. But emotionally, I feel like I’m slacking if I’m running less than 70mpw.
|September 2011 leading up to the Columbus Marathon|
This is where I need to take a step back and remind myself that the training and mileage are means to an end, and not a goal themselves. In the end, I really don’t care whether I averaged 75 miles per week this year or 35 miles per week, as long as I run under 16 minutes. I’ve even taken days off completely from running when my legs weren’t recovering like they should have. As much as I know this is a good decision, it is still a very difficult one. Running mileage has always been a source of pride for me, and to have to back off makes me feel weak. I have to continually remind myself that the goal is to race, not train. Add in the fact that my teammate Kenny runs elite-level mileage, and it’s very easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I need more miles.
So, friends, if you hear me lamenting about my lack of mileage or pondering running a double to get some mileage, kindly smack me and remind me that it doesn’t matter in the end, as long as I am able to race well. And for those of you who have a tendency to fall into the same trap, ask yourself, “Does this run serve any purpose?” If you are just running miles for the sake of running miles, it might be worth asking if it’s truly beneficial, or if the time might be better served by recovering.