What was the deep down motivation behind your triple at STWM? I understand the greater cause behind it, but why?
For as long as I can remember, I have been a runner. I ran track and cross country in school, but towards the latter part of my teens, I literally went ‘off track’ and fell headfirst into the world of drugs and alcohol addiction. Running found its way back into my life in my mid 30s, when I entered a treatment program for my addiction issues. Since that time, running has evolved in a somewhat ‘mystical’ way for me.
My first decade back to running was really all about running away from myself and all the unresolved issues from my past that were bubbling to surface. Around 5 years ago, my running practice became less about ‘escaping’ and more about ‘reconnecting’ with myself, and by this, I mean psychologically rather than physically. More recently, my running has evolved yet again, and now I view it as akin to a spiritual practice in my day. I describe it this way – The best thing about running for 3 or 4 hours is that you are alone with your mind, and conversely, the worst thing is that you are alone with your mind. Somewhere in the middle of that dichotomy lies the sweet spot, the place where in losing yourself, you actually come to find yourself.
Now, returning to your question… I decided to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon three times in the same day (126.6 km) because for me, running is the canvas on which I paint my life. I could think of no better way to illustrate to the world the resiliency we all have inside of us – something that most of us rarely have the desire to tap into, yet it is always waiting for us when we need it most. Running has delivered me from addiction, depression, and trauma, so my ‘triple marathon’ was my way of acknowledging that: “I’m stronger than my past”, and in fact, “I’m stronger because of my past.”
I am an average runner, and I usually run about 50 km in a week (short runs through the week and do half on the weekend). How do I increase my speed? My best time for a half marathon is 1:58, and I really want to improve my time especially now that I’ve signed up for a full next October. Any tips, and what kind of watch are you using?
Let me start by saying that, to my mind, there is no such thing as an “average” runner. I’ve been around our sport for many years now, and I’ve watched my running practice change throughout those years. I’ve also witnessed our sports’ tremendous growth in terms of participation. Running marathons and half marathons is somewhat ‘unique’ compared to other sports, in that we get to line-up in the same field as world record holders and Olympic medalists. Long distance running is a great ‘equalizer’, and it can and will ‘humble’ us all at some point of our running practice. So, my first advice to you would be to consider dropping that word “average”, and instead, think of yourself as one among many, ‘runners’ on this planet.
Now, getting to your question about increasing speed, and hopefully that will translate into faster racing results. I’ve mentioned in previous articles that I’m not a huge fan of track workouts, but having said that, I know that they do produce incredible results in those dedicated to incorporating them into their training regimen. When I do hit the track, and let me be clear that with the longer distances I’ve been logging lately, those track visits are few and far between… but when I do hit the track, I typically run Yasso 800s (Google this, and you’ll get an explanation and suggested workouts).
For me, my speed sessions are peppered throughout my weekly runs. One morning a week, I’ll do a 5k warm-up at 5 min/km pace, and then I’ll do a tempo ladder: the next 5k at 4:45 pace, 3k at 4:10 pace, 2k at 4:00 pace, and 1k at sub 4:00 pace. I follow this with a 3k cool-down, and a big breakfast! Another good workout is to run the last 10k of some of your weekly long runs at ‘race pace’. This is an excellent way to simulate running hard on tired legs. Whatever you do, introduce the speed work slowly into your training, and make sure you listen to your body. The goal is to make it to the start line of the race happy and healthy –
Everything after that is a bonus!
Clearly, you are older than dirt. (No offence, I’m in the same neighbourhood and it takes one to know one…)
You run ZILLIONS of miles and yet you don’t seem to be plagued by injuries like the rest of us mere mortals. I’m getting suspicious that you may be part Cyborg.
What’s up with that?
Bent Outta Shape and Falling Apart,
Dear Bent Outta Shape:
I’m turning 50 in the New Year, and I’ve never felt better… except for the fact that for some reason, I need my wife to help me put my socks on some mornings! Not to mention, freaky though it sounds, I seem to have less and less hair on my head, and more and more hair growing out of my ears – What the heck is that all about, anyways!
The secret to my logging lots of miles is that I consistently log lots of miles. I discovered about 7 years ago that the best way for my body to recover from Sunday’s long run, or a marathon, is to go out for a 90-minute easy-pace run on Monday morning. I guess my body is just like an old car… as long as I keep it moving, everything is okay.
When it comes to running, what are you a little bit embarrassed that you don’t know more about?
This is a great question! Having run over 120 marathons, and lots of half marathons and ultras, the one element of my running and training that has yet to fall into place is my big ‘pre-race meal’ the night before a race. I’ve tried every combination of carbs and protein (and that includes excluding the protein), and I still haven’t found what works consistently well for me. I probably own 8 or more books on nutrition for athletes, but that hasn’t seemed to help either. So, maybe this is where “Ask JP” gets to shout-out to all of you reading this column – Any advice on what might work best for me?
Send your advice and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org