2012 is the year that I am taking plunge and tackling my first marathon. While it is still a few months away, I began to realize that my haphazard running schedule wasn’t going to get it done if I wanted to have any chance of running a solid first event.
Over the last two years, my primary focus has been on increasing my distance. I really do enjoy the longer runs. I can listen to some tunes and crank out some miles. But I have never really focused on speed or leg strength. I just assumed that if I ran enough times, or miles, or whatever, that I would just get faster and stronger. To a certain extent, that is true. I am running a little faster than when I first started and my legs are more toned that they were, but I am not seeing the big improvements at races that I saw at first.
I ran my first 5k in 27:00. My second was at 25:30. The third was under 24:00. And then I PR’d at 23:25, which is where I remain. I have run a couple of races since October, but I have not come close to beating that time.
As I said, I realized that if I hope to be able to run as fast as I want to, then my training methods have got to change. About 6 weeks ago, I came across an article by Amby Burfoot (http://peakperformance.runnersworld.com/2012/05/new-workout-the-30-20-10-produces-impressive-results/) touting the results of a study that showed increased performance utilizing a 30/20/10 run pattern when training. I tried this method for a couple of weeks and felt some improvement almost immediately. My long run pace dropped from around 8:20 to just under 8 minutes. Apparently, all that I needed was a little confidence. Running these faster paces for a few seconds gave me the confidence to run them for a few minutes, or a few miles.
After seeing that I could improve my paces if I developed a plan and stuck with it, I took to the internet to find that perfect running plan for me. I ended up selecting the Run Less, Run Faster book which uses the FIRST training program.
The fundamentals of the program are simple:
1. Run only 3 times per week (great for a working husband and father).
2. The 3 runs are: track, tempo, and long (each run at a targeted pace which is faster than your typical run and based on a recent 5K finishing time).
3. Cross train (bike, swim, or row) twice per week.
I started this program 3 weeks ago. My plan as to utilize the 10K training plan for 5 weeks (leading up to my July 4th Peachtree Road Race 10K) and then reevaluate. I need to begin my marathon training mid-July and this would allow time to drop back and punt if need be.
After only 3 weeks of training, all I can say is holy crap! These workouts are hard (not impossible, but they do press you) BUT they have already produced significant results. The track workouts are hard. This is something new for me. I never ran in high school or college, so even the experience of running on a track was foreign to me. But these workouts produce great results. And my wife and sons have joined me on a couple of the track runs. It is great that the four of us can be on the track together at the same time but doing our own thing. We love it! The tempo runs are hard as well. The long training runs are the only runs that I can actually accomplish the required distance and pace consistently.
A goal that I have had was to be able to run a sub 7 minute mile. I have gotten close before (as close as 7:03) but I could never drop below 7 minutes.
Until this week.
I am running a local 5K tomorrow night and decided that I would skip the program runs this week and instead run back to back short, but intense, track workouts early this week, and then rest a couple of days before the race. I ran a mile on Monday night in 6:52 and followed that up with a 6:40 mile on Tuesday night.
I am really looking forward to seeing what happens on Friday night. I have never run an evening race before and I am not sure how I will do, given the heat and humidity around Atlanta right now. Also, tomorrow is a work day for me the fact that I will put in a full day at work tomorrow prior to the event is a concern as well.
But we shall see. I am thrilled with my progress to this point by following the runs and paces set out in the Run Less Run Faster book. The dread that I was feeling about running a marathon has turned back to anxiousness….I can’t wait to Get Started.
On a side note, I bought a new pair of running shoes this week. I got the Brooks Ghost 5 from the Big Peach Running Company in Kennesaw. While I don’t remember the name of the fellow who assisted me with their fit process and shoe selection, he made my day when he told me that, based on my limited running experience and age, that I could anticipate running some of my best races 4 or 5 years from now when I am in my mid to late 40’s.
Again, I can’t wait.
Wish me luck.
And Happy Flag Day!