So can a fat kid turn himself into a runner? Possible, but it's definitely not easy. Look, let me first tell you that I don't like running. I definitely don't like labelling myself a runner.
I think runners should take offense to it. To me, a runner is someone who (1) enjoys running, (2) constantly talks about how running has changed their life and lastly (3) has a social media presence full of inspirational quotes / insights on the benefits of running has given to them. That is hardly me. I am just writing this document my experience and share. I mean that is what the Internet is all about, right?
Ok, to start let me tell you that I'm not a coach, medical doctor, or play one on the Internet.
Why running? I hate running.
Well, it is free and you can (generally) do it anywhere. You can step outside, get lost around the neighborhood, and get a relatively good workout after 30 minutes. It appeals to my cheap sensibilities because all you need are a pair of running shorts, shoes, and socks. When the Zombie apocalypse comes aknockin' getting better at running makes a lot of sense: With slow zombies, you need some endurance to out manuever them and with fast zombies you just need to run faster than the slowest person in the room.
This year I wanted to run longer and faster.
Let's define some goals.
It may (or may not) come as a surprise to you that in the 5+ years of running, my goals have mostly been just to "finish 10km races". The 10km distance is far enough that you need to train but does not require a large time committment. This year, I wanted a big ass scary goal, one that makes me cringe a bit so I've copied some snippets from my notebook and shared some thoughts behind it.
G1: Forget the 10km distance, go 21.1km! Finish a few (ie more than 2) half marathons.
This seems simple enough. Ditch 10km race distances for good and progress to running half marathon events. Plus it isn't one and done: must do at least 3!
G2: Must have the ability to walk the day after completing each race.
The first time I ran a half marathon was a few years ago and I was destroyed. I had to take 4 days off work because I couldn't walk. And even then, I still came back with a limp. I wanted to walk after the fact.
G3: Finish a least one half-marathon below or at 2h10m time. Which means that your slow ass needs to run a 6.15 minute / km pace ( = 130m / 21.1km).
Getting faster was also important. So I set some very unrealistic goals. I have to admit that this one is the most daunting one. I don't consider myself a fast runner.
So how? Build a base.
Again, I'm not a trainer or doctor. For the most part, I'm feeling this out for myself.
To accomplish G2, I need a body that has the cardio respiratory strength to adequately supply oxygen to muscles and have the muscles that can support running the 21.1km distance. Better yet: Breath better and have muscles that can run longer like a sherpa running marathons high up in the mountains.
I used interval training with the Vader mask to build the cardio respiratory strength. On the treadmill (after a 10 minute jogging warm up), 3 minute intervals of 2 minute runs at the 6.2 speed setting (on my watch that is a 5m30s per km) and 1 minute at 3.2 (this is around a 11m per km). I did this for a few weeks, to the point where I was comfortable running a 5.8 setting straight on the treadmill for 5km (this is about a 6m / km). With the training mask you get the added bonus of looking and sounding like Tom Hardy from the Dark Knight Rises.
I then upped my total distance with the goal of running 10km regularly. The strategy was to increase the distance 20% per week until I reached 10km. Why 10km? I read somewhere that you should be able to run half the distance comfortably and regularly. No scientific rational on this one folks. Just hearsay.
At this point, I was running about 20-30km average per week. It is also time to caveate my numbers: treadmills, especially mine, are definitely not accurate.
The first test: The 2017 BMO Half Marathon.
My first test was the BMO half marathon. My time wasn't that great (practically 15 minutes more than my first one a few years back) but I did do it. This marathon I had at least 3 fuckthisrun moments mostly on the slow and gradual uphills. There was a point where I must've said it pretty loud that I startled the nice woman running next to me. But I walked into work the next day although bit sore.
Time to get faster!
Pushing too hard: The 2017 Scotiabank half marathon.
Here's what I thought: If I could get my legs used to the 10km distance, I can increase the interval training in the process. If I increase the interval training and intensity of running the 10km distance, I can ease up at the event (i.e. slower pace than training) while still accomplishing my goal.
Boring numbers: So if I train at a 5m30s km pace for 10.5km then than means that I can survive a 6m pace for 21.1km. It all generally sounds reasonable in my head. But in my head, most things sound reasonable.
My plan was to muscle my way through 30-40km average per week. I'm not going to get into the nitty gritty details, but long story short I injured myself. I had two visits to the physiotherapist as a result of pushing through calf cramps. Both times, I had to stop running for a week and the last time it happend was too close to race day. I decided that running the event was a bad idea in the physical state that I was in.
Lesson learned? Train smarter and hard but not necessarily moar harder. Overtraining is a thing!
I adjusted my training in two ways. First: I switched from using distance to measure of a workout to using the total time. (ie 60m mark rather than 10km). I planed my runs to reach 10km but now I would look at the distance travelled as an indication of performance (ie. if I covered more distance during a session then I performed better). Second: prioritize better quality interval training over total distance during the week. My breakdown for the week was 30% intervals above and below race pace, 30% running at race pace and the rest recovery runs. My average weekly distance dropped to 25-35km. As cliche as it sounds, I now understand the term pain cave.
Finding some balance: The 2017 Edmonton half marathon.
On this marathon I had 1 fuckthisrun moment. While the run itself was generally pretty flat [insert Edmonton is flat joke here], there were a few places where a small hill was conceled behind a turn. I slogged through most of the run trying to find a comfortable pace. I was trying to follow the 2h10m pace bunny (run 10m, walk 1m) and was doing pretty good until he took his first break and the hellnaw's broke through in my legs.
I learned that for me it is better to keep a consistent happy pace rather than start and stop. I was on track to finish 2h15m pace but finished 2h21m instead.
My plan was to keep a manageable pace until around the 12km mark, ease up to save the legs (for 3km), and turn up the jets for the last 5km. The "jets" in this case would be a slight increase in pace followed by a whole lotta internal monologing / complaining. Things were on track, but something more important than my goals happened.
Here is my own Instagram-esque inspirational writing: It's really good to have your own goal when it comes to these running events, but sometimes you need to consider the bigger picture (friends and family). There is so much more joy in being part of someone elses accomplishment rather than selfishly pursuing your own success. Selflessness is better than being selfish.
Wait that's only two!
As of the time of this writing, thats correct! That is only two half-marathons (G1). I still need to find a manageable half-marathon to complete as my last one for the year.
Training plan also need re-adjustments. While I've made some improvements, my current pace won't get me to the 2h10m mark. Here is my assumption for testing: I was having so much trouble pacing because my muscle memory wasn't there. Training on the treadmill gives good metrics and a controlled environment but "feel" is hard to develop there. My plan is to incorporate some outdoor runs and track workouts instead of just using the treadmill including a plan to drop a bit of weight.
The pace goal that I'm shooting for is currently 6m per km to give me some contingency.