Realism and Running

Have you read The Sports Gene by David Epstein? Go read it and then come back to this little blog post.

As we get heavy into marathon season, runners will be scrutinizing their training plans and performances, analyzing the data to explain the outcome of their chosen race. Blame will be placed on Mother Nature, hydration, lack of training, overtraining, injuries, illness, food, and the Man on the Moon.

(Image courtesy of davegranlund.com)

(Image courtesy of davegranlund.com)

Does it matter?

Your performance on any given race day is not necessarily indicative of your ability to perform at a certain level. Even the pros have a bad day when their training has been “perfect”.

Dennis Kimetto at the Boston Marathon in 2014. He dropped out. On Sunday he ran 2:02:57 and broke the Men's World Record in the Marathon. (Via Luke Maher @LWarrenMaher on Twitter)

Dennis Kimetto at the Boston Marathon in 2014. He dropped out. On Sunday he ran 2:02:57 and broke the Men’s World Record in the Marathon.                                                     (Via Luke Maher @LWarrenMaher on Twitter)

But what if it keeps happening race after race? No matter how you adjust your training, your fuel, your gear, your PT, you just can’t seem to get there with your running.

What gives?

Everyone has the capacity to run, it’s part of our mechanics as human beings. BUT everyone’s body also has a speed threshold, even the pros. We all top out at a certain speed, a certain distance. It depends heavily on our genetic make up. Within that genetic component is your body’s ability to respond to training.

Basically, some people have it, some people don’t.

(Read the book)

From a physical therapy standpoint, some people’s body mechanics are perfectly designed for running. From the top to the bottom, their alignment, weight distribution, and gait are perfect. When body mechanics are messy and asymmetrical, that’s where the wheels come off.

Asymmetry and less than perfect body mechanics wastes energy, uses muscles and joints in the wrong way, and put you at greater risk for injury with every step you take. Most important to the majority of runners, it will greatly affect your ability to hit certain paces.

Except Priscah Jeptoo. Her form is crazy but she still smokes the field. 1% anomaly.  (Image courtesy of iaaf.org)

Except Priscah Jeptoo. Her form is crazy but she still smokes the field. 1% anomaly.
(Image courtesy of iaaf.org)

We are not the 1%. The 1% is Dennis Kimetto, Deena Kastor, Meb Keflezighi, Usain Bolt, Shalane Flanagan, Jenny Simpson. These people are genetic anomalies whose bodies operate at a completely different level than 99% of the population.

So should you be really disappointed that you haven’t qualified for Boston? Absolutely not. Should you keep trying, year after year, through injury after injury, training cycle after training cycle? That’s up to you.

If you hate it, stop. Don’t torture yourself trying to achieve some goal you think everyone else in the world has met. Run shorter distances. Stop running. Try swimming. Take up yoga. You might be awesome at boxing, I don’t know.

Point is, there’s nothing wrong with you just because you can’t run a sub-4:00 marathon. Nothing at all. And if you want to keep going, rock on. But if you want to take a break, do it.

Join me at Refine Method!...or the bar :)

Join me at Refine Method!…or the bar :)

Now go out and run.

(I received no compensation whatsoever from Penguin Books, David Epstein, or anyone else involved with The Sports Gene. I just really, really liked the book and science in general. You should read it.)

You Might Be a New York City Runner If…

I moved to New York after having lived and run in the Denver and Chicago suburbs.

I mastered the head nod or itty bitty wave for the early morning trails on the Highline Canal, where I would invariably acknowledge every other human being I passed on my morning run.

I learned to run against traffic so there are two sets of eyes looking out for me, not one. I also waived to the drivers as they slowed down to pass me.

I dutifully passed on the left and hugged the right side of whatever sidewalk I chose to pound my cross country miles on that day.

New York City is a different animal, and entirely different beast all together. We have our own rules and our own quirks. Here are my Top 10 “You Might Be a New York City Runner If…”

1. You see the same person every time you run but neither of you ever acknowledge the other’s existence.

2. Your run includes multiple boroughs. Or states.

Where Brooklyn at?

Where Brooklyn at?

3. You bring cab fare or a Metro card with you when you long run.

4. You know the run routes through boroughs that you don’t know how to get to by train or car.

5. You are more paranoid of being hit by a bicyclist than a car.

6. Your runs regularly include going over at least one bridge.

Bridges!

Bridges!

7. You run through neighborhoods you would never consider walking through.

8. On any given day in Central Park, you might see nuns on roller skates, a guy juggling while running, and Meb Keflezighi all on the same run.

9. You accidentally crash the JP Morgan Chase Challenge and audibly groan when you realize what you’ve done.

10. People say “The Park” and you know they mean Central Park.

What are your “You Might Be a New York City Runner If…” moments? Or maybe your city has its own little quirks. Tell me about it in the comments and I’ll feature my favorites on Friday!

Now go out and run.

My Favorite Track Workout: Ladder Up

I’m the biggest fan of track workouts. Last summer, it was Track Tuesdays and I would meet my (MUCH faster) friends Birdie and Minnie and they would lap me while I do my favorite workout.

Just a normal day at the track wearing makeup and a skirt.

Just a normal day at the track wearing makeup and a skirt. Just kidding. I look gross during track workouts.

Best part about a track workout is that it’s broken up and none of the sections last very long. This workout is my favorite because it hits lots of different gears and makes me feel strong in the end.

Ladder Up

  • 2 mile warm-up (super easy and relatively slow)
  • 4 x 200 meter sprints (200 meter jog in between repeats)
  • 3 x 400 meter sprints (200 meter jog in between repeats)
  • 2 x 800 meter hard tempo (400 meter jog in between)
  • 1 x 1 mile all-out
  • 1-2 mile cool down (relaxed pace)

This is a surprisingly long workout that goes by very quickly when you take one repeat at a time.

Win the argument.

Win the argument.

3 things to remember are:

  1. Maintain the same pace for each repeat in the set (all 400s the same pace, all 800s the same pace, etc).
  2. Your pace should be fastest for the 200s and slowest for the mile, not the same throughout the entire workout.
  3. Maintaing the pace through each lap in the 800s and mile is also key.

This workout is designed to get you in shape, help you find your true comfortable pace, and to find different gears in your pace. And isn’t it nice to mix it up a little on the oval?

Now go out and run.