Friday, October 21, 2011

We Are The Majority

If you're like me and you're training for an upcoming half- or full marathon, you're following a  training plan. There are dozens of plans out there, each with slight variations.  But all of them advocate the same two elements:  An increasingly longer "long slow distance" (LSD) run per week, and at least one, preferably two, rest or recovery days per week.  Sources of well-respected training programs include: Runners World, which publishes several training plans at their website and offers real-time online coaching for its enrollees; and  USAFit which provides a training plan for those who sign up for a local chapter of their program or follow it on-line.  These two programs - along with many others that are similar - all have these two elements in common:  An LSD run and one or two recovery days each week of the program.

So, getting back to that LSD for a moment...LSD implies not only distance, but the pace at which that distance is run.  During the first week of a multi-week training program, this LSD typically starts with a distance of 5 or 6 miles and gradually increases week by week until this LSD approaches the race distance we're training for, whether it's a 12 to 14 mile LSD run in preparation for a half marathon, or a 22 to 26 mile LSD run in preparation for a full marathon.  And as its name implies - long slow distance - it's done at a sub-marathon pace, i.e., S..L..O..W.  

Here's the description for the LSD run at the end of the first week of training, taken from Runner's World's online training program:
  • Week #1, Day #7
  • 5 MILES LSD
  • Today is your first long, slow distance (LSD) run. The long run is the backbone of any successful training program. It builds your aerobic base, increases your endurance, boosts confidence, and helps you rehearse some of the gear and fuel strategies you'll need for the race. It also helps you prepare for the psychological challenge of racing for a few hours. Since you'll be running farther, you can go out slower than you usually do. On these days your goal is just to complete the distance.
For us mere mortals who represent the vast majority of folks who line up at the start line for half or full marathons, starting a training program - whether it's for the first time, or after a recovery layoff - and running that first Long Slow Run of 5 miles is BIG STUFF!  We add to this distance gradually, 10-20% increases each week, and next thing we know, we're running 12 miles and we're now confident that we can finish that half marathon.  And we feel damn proud of ourselves for reaching that point in our training. 

We run our race, maybe take a couple of weeks off from running, then slip into "maintenance mode" until the next race catches our eye, if at all.  For many finishers of a marathon or half-marathon, this may not ever happen again, or won't happen until the same time next year when the training plan starts all over again from the beginning.

Don't let anyone tell you that 5 or 6 or 7 miles is not a "long run."  Yes, there are those runners who eat miles like candy, cranking out double-digit mileage every day, running 30 miles on a Sunday.    But they are a small minority.  The rest of us - the majority of runners who do half- and whole marathons - why, we thank God or whatever deities we believe in that we made it to the end of that training program, worked our way up to and finished that last LONG SLOW DISTANCE RUN, be it 12 miles or 22 miles, and got to the start line injury-free.

A "long run" is a state of mind, not a statement of miles.

Mere mortals unite! 
See you at the start line.

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