Monday, June 11, 2012

The Runner Whisperer

I've been thinking more about that Sally Kipyego quote I mentioned in Sally's 14:43 Secret: "Julia, don't try to be great, just do every day pretty good like you're supposed to, and then you'll be great." There's a book called The Horse Whisperer (made into a Robert Redford film) that tells the story of how a traumatised horse and rider are coaxed back to a normal relationship by a horse whisperer, Tom Booker. The methods a horse whisperer uses are gentler and kinder by comparison to traditional horse training techniques. I think I should apply a similar philosophy to the training of myself as a runner. Hammering out 'PB interval sessions' or running weekly races with the desperation that a sheep station is riding on the outcome, seems to me like traditional horse training. Runner Whispering has to be a better method of finding that holy grail of improvement — the 'doing every day pretty good' that Sally Kipyego advises.

I've also been thinking about what's needed to be a successful distance runner (besides carefully selecting one's parents). In my search, I stumbled upon the blog of a running philosopher, Jeff Edmonds. One of Jeff's older posts caught my eye: 'Keep it Simple, Yo! Distance training, from 5k to 50k'. Jeff mentions that speed per se is not the problem for distance runners who want to run faster. The problem is extending one's speed over the distance of the race. For example, I can run 1k in 4 minutes, so how can I train my body to hold that speed for 4 more kilometres. Jeff's answer in three words: "run a lot." He put up one of his own weeks of training as an example — 83.2 miles, all 'easy' running except for 5 miles 'tempo' and 8 miles 'moderate'. He was hardly suffering a horse whipping in the tempo run — 5:40 mile pace (about 3:30 per k), which is quite modest for a 15:48 5k runner. Jeff is now running less 'mileage centric' training (about 70 miles/week including 2 'workouts'), but I'd still categorise that as whispered training.

I'm whispering my own training along quite well. Ran 80k last week, including an 8k tempo run (5:07 per k) and one of those 'almost perfect' easy runs on Friday (would have loved to have been racing that day!). This morning I raced 'easy' over the rarely run distance of 5 miles in the Sri Chinmoy event down at Telopea Park. The last time I raced 5 miles would have been in the late '80s or early '90s. Needless to say, I didn't threaten my lifetime PB (which is around 29-flat from memory), but ran a pleasing 38:43 at a comfortable average heart-rate of 143. My next big race is the Gold Coast 10k on 29 June — should be a good tune-up race for the Runners Shop 5k in late July and a happy break from the depths of a Canberra winter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ‘run a lot’ philosophy is OK if the weekly mileage target does not become too rigid, but in general, 70-80Km per week including a couple of moderately intense sessions fits better into a life that includes a regular job. And it allows for variety. You are running very well at present. Good luck for the Gold Coast 10K.

8:00 pm  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

I think we should get the horse whip out and make you run faster :0]
Well Ewen I tend to think like run your recovery runs real easy and your hard runs pretty hard!

8:09 pm  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Well done in the 5 mile race today. I wondered where you'd run off to post event. Special K and I were all set to have a lengthy chat with you over yummy Sri Chinmoy pancakes and you'd gone :( Next time ...

9:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am solidly on board with the high easy mileage thing right now, with only 1-2 "efforts" per week. Although it's nice to have data, I find that saving the Garmin only for workouts has kept me feeling really good -- there's no pressure to hit a certain pace, because I'm only keeping an eye on it when it matters.

Completely agree with canute about preventing the weekly mileage from getting rigid.

2:02 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Canute, that's right. I'm wary of having enough space in a 'run a lot' schedule for recovery - especially as my work hours are a little erratic and can tend towards long days. As you say, a rough target of 70-80k per week seems to be working well thus far.

Thanks Rick, but my theory is that only thoroughbred athletes like Scott Brown respond to a whipping ;) Yes, in general I like that 'real easy/pretty hard' idea. As long as one recovers well from the hard sessions.

Jog, sorry about that. I adopted the Deek philosophy of 'nothing gets in the way of my training' yesterday ;) Wanted 15k total and didn't want to cool down too much after the race. Thankfully there were still a few pancakes left when I got back :)

SK, you're certainly running well! I'm too pedantic about having lots of data to run Garminless but I do most runs by feel (try not to look at it too much).

7:12 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

I am a great believer in your so-called whispering. I think we are just really talking about Lydiard's base building phase though. There is a time and a place for the faster runs but the majority of my running is the easy stuff.

Hopefully we can catch up at Gold Coast. I am doing the Marathon this year.

8:48 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Robert Song, yes, pretty much Lydiard base building but for me including some short races and aerobic intervals. Also a big emphasis on listening to the body and changing sessions on the fly depending on what the body is telling me ;)

Yes, that'd be great. I'll be a spectator at the marathon so catch up there for sure.

7:01 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

A solid running week with a good race.
I prefer not to read running strategies and philosophy because I risk to follow ambitious scheduled plans and to injure myself again.
For you it is different, you can do it!
Good luck on the next races.

6:03 pm  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Love the whispering method you speak about! I do believe that's an important way to look at training - a much nicer, positive and kind approach. I'm going to remember that in future, thanks for the analogy.

11:57 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano. Know what you mean about following ambitious training plans. I think (hope!) my training isn't too ambitions and is well balanced with rest/recovery.

Flo, no worries. We should be positive and kind to ourselves - 'flogging a dead horse' never works! Hope this philosophy helps when you get back to full training.

12:53 pm  
Blogger Anne said...

nice post ewie ... maybe you can tell me how to make my garmin work. i bought it a few months back, but can't figure it out! will bring it to ww at christmas.

11:40 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

No worries Anne. Bring the manual as well as the Garmin. It's sure to like kms better than miles.

8:51 pm  

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