“Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter; long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.” — Michael Johnson
I hope you guys had a chance to listen to yesterday’s audio interview with Sarah Axelrod, a Boston-based running coach who gave us her perspective on some of the questions you guys asked in last week’s open thread discussion, particularly around getting faster.
Earlier today, as I was putting this issue of the newsletter together, an email arrived in my inbox from a reader who had this to say:
“I saw the response posted to the question — How do I get faster. The response from the running coach you interviewed made no sense. If you want to run faster times at races you need to incorporate speed work in your training. Every coach will tell you that. Of course you have to be thoughtful about your approach to speed work. But without a doubt to get faster you should do tempo, interval and fartlek runs.”
The reader poses a good question: what is speed work for, after all, if not to help you get faster? The question also highlights one of the things that’s so difficult about providing any sort of advice on running and training — every runner is different, so what works for one may not work for another.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t do speed work; I’m saying your fitness level and experience at running should dictate the kinds of exercises you should add to your training regimen.
What Sarah was trying to emphasize in our interview was that for most runners, getting injured poses a greater risk to their ability to improve than training exercises like speed work can help.
“What keeps people from getting faster is constant setbacks.”
And in the larger scheme of things, more runners will benefit from running consistently, even at easier paces, thanks to the fact that they’re running consistently — and not out there getting injured, and consequently having to take several months to a year or more off from running.
What the reader who emailed me was getting at is enhancing your upside potential (I think), while what Sarah is getting at is minimizing your downside risk.
What do you think? I’d love to know your thoughts — and your experience with running injuries (and recovery).
Hope you are all having an amazing week and getting some great runs in. Let me know how your training is going and, as always, keep in touch.
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Nashville, Tenn. | Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019
Lamenting that ours is “an age of flat and fast marathons on city streets and in urban jungles, with more focus on times, course certification, gadgets, charities and putting on a big show than on running,” the organizers of this very challenging race through Nashville’s Percy Warner Park want you to know one big thing: this race is meant to be an antidote to all that. This race is about “running hard. Running over big and memorable and painful rolling hills through dense woods,” they add, on a course some would call “beastly,” with more than 7,000 feet of overall elevation change. One more thing: they’re not kidding about the flying monkeys; though rarely seen, the park is one of their last remaining habitats.
$90 and up | Sign up here
Boulder City, Nev. | Saturday, March 14, 2020
A run through the Nevada desert just outside Las Vegas that takes you past the shoreline of Lake Mead on the way to the majestic Hoover Dam — and along the way, you’ll run through six tunnels along the Historic Railroad Trail inside Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The onetime railroad, which served as an access route for train cars hauling supplies for the dam’s construction, is made up mostly of smooth, gradual inclines and declines, though there are some big climbs on the route. The views are also spectacular, including the mountains around the lake, the desert sagebrush and other vegetation, and the tunnels themselves, each of which are about 300 feet in length.
$80 and up | Sign up here
Decatur, Texas | Saturday, April 25, 2020
Yeah, baby! This clothing-optional cross-country race takes place along the trails of a naturist resort about 25 miles north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and offers “a feeling of freedom and exhilaration that cannot be matched in any other way,” organizers say. (You can wear running shoes, as the course features stretches that run through ravines and over tree logs, as well as through wooded areas and open meadows.) Sunscreen is a must, as the race starts at 1:00 p.m. out in the springtime Texas sun; every runner will have their race number applied by marker, as there’s nowhere to pin a race bib at this event, part of a four-race series designed especially for runners who like to run in the nude across the Southwest.
$30 and up | Sign up here
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg | Saturday, May 23, 2020
Nestled in the heart of Western Europe at the confluence of two rivers, this tiny country’s capital city is known for its old world charm, thanks to its famous theaters, restaurants and especially its famous network of underground art galleries, carved from the ancient rock that much of the city is built upon. Starting at 7 p.m., you’ll run this nighttime race through small, winding alleys in the city center, on highway bridges and through underground tunnels, and along city streets lined with people and the lights of bars and restaurants as the sun is going down.
$37 and up | Sign up here
Deadwood, S.D. | Sunday, June 7, 2020
A simply gorgeous run through the Black Hills of South Dakota, along a gentle downhill point-to-point route on the George S. Mickelson Trail, which stretches more than 100 miles along an old Burlington Northern railroad line. The half marathon begins at the midway point of the full marathon just outside Dumont, S.D., and features a combination of paved and gravel trails that take you across converted railroad bridges and through hardrock tunnels, as well as through gorgeous, scenic National Forest lands. The final six miles of the half are almost all downhill, especially miles 8 through 10, which race organizers say is a “serious downhill — you’ll have to be careful not to become a runaway.”
$70 and up | Sign up here
A song to run to today
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Photo at top by Marina Troshenkova for Dreamstime.com.