Things I Learned About Running
When you have been around the sport of running as long as I have over 40 years you pick up a nugget or two of knowledge that sticks with you. First as a runner and later on as a coach, I learned a few things that anyone who wants to maximize the most from running needs to consider.
The first concept that sticks with me I learned from my high school coach Glen Brown. “For every day you miss running, it takes two days to get back to where you were.” Coach Brown was spot on regarding this simple training gem. When you are young or inexperienced in the sport of running, one tends not to be disciplined enough to embrace the importance of building your training base.
It is one thing to take a day off here and there from running when one is in super tip-top shape or you may need to recoup from a minor injury or illness. The point I took away from this was I was never going to make gains if I did not train consistently. If you train smart, your body will adapt. Sometimes you just have to push through some of the soreness and the urges to be lazy!
The next running truism is running is a lifestyle. If you fully embrace running, you cannot be much of a “party animal” or live hard. It just ain’t going to work for you!
Runners have to be at least 90-percent ready when it comes to competition, unlike team sports where there is always someone on the bench waiting their turn if you cannot deliver during a competition, you have to be physically and mentally on your game. There are no substitutions during a race! You cannot go out and “tie one on” the night before a big race and expect to run worth a crap the next day. Some may have tried, but I have not heard of anyone being successful.
Closely related is “Body like a clock.” This one comes from my long-time assistant Hugh Toro. If you want to become a successful runner, you have to live by a rigid routine. This means a particular lifestyle that is not glamorous. Early to bed, early to rise, sound nutrition. Stuff like that! To the outsider or pedestrian, such a lifestyle is boring. To the hard-core runner, you understand the feelings and successes you acquire from the discipline and training.
The next running truism is all about the base training. If you are a high school or college runner, this refers to off-season training mainly summer mileage! The most important time for a young runner is the summer training AND racing. Between May and August, if you are not getting in a ton of weekly mileage, you are not preparing yourself to be successful or actually enjoy running. The summer also allows for running different distances that one may not get to run during the season. It also allows you to experiment trying different tactics in a road race or all-comers meet that you may not normally try during the season of competitions. However, you frustrate your coaches and teammates if you do not train and race in the summer to prepare for the real work your coach has in store for you and teammates when the season begins.
The last running truism to address in this writing, I would like to call “pace makes waste.” This has to do with the pace one runs during training. If you are running four or five miles at a time and hope to get faster, jogging isn’t getting you down the road. If you are putting in 10-20 miles at a time, different story since you are building from the ground up, so to speak.
For example, if you hope to race at six-minute per mile pace, then you need to be training pretty close to that pace on your training runs, too! Of course, starting off you have to take it slow to get use to the distance, but by running consistently, living like a clock and training in the off-season, your efforts should put you in the position to train at or near the goal pace you are striving to achieve.
I have indeed learned some things from running that have made me, my teammates, and the athletes I coach better runners. However, the most difficult part of all these running truisms that I have laid out for you is applying them. They are all pretty simple and straightforward, yet a small percentage of individuals have been successful.
Those who have tried (myself included) embraced some, but not all of these running truisms and fell short of realizing maximum potential. The toughest lesson about running -- it is easy yet it is so hard.