The great runner, Emil Zátopek—also famous for his grimace!
I am a runner in the sense that I haven’t taken a substantial break in 10 years (even on trips abroad) but I do not post world class results. Recently, I ran a 10 miler in 75 minutes, and a half-marathon in 105 minutes, both of which are brisk for me, especially as I am hobbled by this and that injury, but again, these results would not garner me any ribbons, including Le Riband Bleu that has eluded me all my life. About a year ago, however, I switched from running short distance during the week and middle distance during the weekend to running almost exclusively middle distance every time I lace up me jogging boots. It was the solution to my Mid Life Crisis—to run Middle Distance, like, all the time. I would define ‘middle distance’ as seven to 13 miles, but there may be a standard definition out there, somewhere, idling on a beach eating lobster claw. Friends have been asking me recently about (1) running in the abstract and (2) tips involving other matters so I am going to (3) cherry pick, and combine (running + tips) to offer unsolicited advice about how to accomplish a successful run in the Middle Digits. Here goes.
10. The Proper Boot. You should employ a shoe that matches the architecture of your foot. A running shop can help you select Fashion Colors. But I “pshaw” the notion that you must change boots at 400 miles. I ran about 800 miles on the Gel Foundation before Asics combined it and the Gel Evolution into a worthless hunk of wood. My new boot, the Saucony Progrid Stabil, rocks.
9. Afternoon vs. Morning. I say afternoon. I’ve been up for a while, I’m warm, I’ve vented, I’ve harangued, I’ve centered the eyes, so to speak. If it’s hot, so be it, I don’t think that running in the heat is so terrible. In any event, the world is warming. Better get accustomed to it, I say. Either way, I wouldn’t go middle distance running after some sort of XXL bowl of porridge.
8. Stretching. I don’t think there is any definitive evidence that proves the benefits of stretching before a run. It may work for some, and not for others. To me, stretching has always been better after a run, and then I stretch my whole body: ribcage, hammies, and eight other districts. I’d say stretch the way you manage your checkbook: don’t bounce. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds apiece.
7. The First Three-Tenths of a Mile. I jog slowly for the first two-tenths of a mile, then I walk for a tenth of a mile, before I launch into the run. The warm-up period helps the legs (and upper body) approximate the motions and the rhythms. No two rhythms are the same, I have found. Every run is like being on a new date: one is painful, one is great, and one goes on in the dark.
6. Intervals. I practice intervals all the time. Even though D.C. has parks, with uninterrupted stretches, I must sprint to beat lights or to pass other runners (“…suckerrrrr…”) or for no reason at all but to confuse my muscles. Sprint for a while and rest by running slower, never stopping. The problem is, it carries over into other arenas: typing really fast, then slow, as a blogger.
5. Hills and Staircases. Sprint the (outdoor) staircases, and also uphill, but take it slow going downhill. I see many runners charging downhill and I worry for pulled hammies. Not to mention wild, out of control, wind-milling arms where the runners wind up splashing down into the creek. It must be terrifying and beautiful, alike, to lose control, but focus on the terrifying—and avoid.
4. If Tired. Run like Wilfried Bony, a recent transfer to my football club,
. Wilfried runs
deliberately, powerfully. Slow isn’t the word but muscular is. He turns on the
speed when necessary. He conserves. He projects significance. Wilfried rumbling
toward goal: look out! “Wilfried” as opposed to Bony (pronounced “bonny”)
because, just because, he’s Wilfried. Swansea
Wilfried in his Swansea home kit. Up the Swans!
3. Weight Training and Cross Training. I believe in both, especially weight training. I do a basic 20 minute workout three or four times per week: biceps, traps, delts, lats, triceps, abs, pecs. At times I have swum (yes, I have) and I have biked (yes, I have). My latest thing is long walks. My latest thing is long walks where the destination may be pumpernickel, stout, kalamata, or coffee.
2. Dealing with Pain and Injuries. I believe in pushing through pain, so long as there is no crunching noise, no gristle noise. If you ignore gristle noise, you could turn into a gristly bear. Currently, I have six injuries: right foot, right ankle, left knee, right thigh, left chest, right giblet. I do, however, sit my hammies on a heating pad after every run to keep ‘em nice ‘n’ warm.
1. Frequency. It’s not advisable to run seven days out of seven on a middle-distance regimen, and I would not advise more than three days in a row. On your days off, cross-train. Eat a meatloaf sandwich or a quinoa pilaf. Go to the cinema with a beer in your backpack. Defend the world against mediocrity. As part of that defense, oh yeah, run them middle distance miles!
If you have completed a middle distance run, then you deserve a TREAT.