Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Abomination of Timing Training Runs…and Ultrarunning

I used to run with a guy—call him John--at an Army base where we both worked.  Owing to a corporate fitness program for us civilians, we could run for an hour 3 times a week (I still have this GREAT benefit!).

Anyway, John always had this dream of qualifying for Boston, but family and work demands always seemed to impede his ability to get those critical long runs in that are necessary to marathon success.  So he’d run the noontime runs at a great pace, Boston-qualifying pace, but never could get over the hump of being well enough trained to maintain such a pace over 26 miles.  That is, until the fall of 2009, when John qualified at the Steamtown Marathon in PA to finally earn—and I mean earn—his way into Boston in April 2011.

But the point of this post is to point out a huge philosophical difference between John and I.  Whenever we would run the military base perimeter, there were a couple road crossings at the gates, and in the main part of the base.  John would always start his chronometer at the beginning of our training runs, and whenever we would get stopped at a road for cars, he would pause his watch until we were clear and able to run again.

It drove me absolutely nuts. I never said anything to John, but to be that anal—to my way of thinking—was the absolute antithesis of everything that running is supposed to be: the freedom of movement, the flow, the pleasure of being a good animal.  To time to the second an ordinary training run, and to parse the seconds to cull out traffic and other delays, was just beyond my comprehension.  I figured that in any run there are delays, and you just accept that.

That said, I am mindful of the clock during training runs, but only to a point.  It is important to me to know whether a particular stretch of the Appalachian Trail usually takes me about 4 hours, and if today it takes me 5, I do note that and try to figure out why.  Was it the heat?  Did I stop to take photos?  Was in rainy and wet and slippery?  Did I just not have it today? 

But I limit that analysis to gross terms and times.  My benchmark unit of measure is the quarter hour or even the half hour…certainly NOT the second.

But then again, I never qualified for Boston.


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