My post on my Western States training regimen received some interesting responses. Quick summary- I managed to finish the 100.2 mile race with a training regimen based entirely on the occasional long run mixed with some hill repeats. All my workouts were done for a specific reason- they were fun.
In some cases, those workouts may have been done with friends. Other times they were done in new and interesting locations. In every case, they satisfied an important criteria- they were fun.
I didn’t do a single workout I didn’t enjoy. If I wasn’t feeling it on a run, I stopped. I didn’t force myself to complete a workout “just to get the miles in.”
I took this same approach on race day. I went in to the race with one primary goal- have fun and enjoy the experience. I did manage to do so well by the time I picked up my pacer, we had an opportunity to shoot for the sub-24 hour silver buckle. That competitive race against the clock was a blast in itself. Thanks to the excellent skills of my pacers and crew, I managed to finish with 20 minutes to spare.
Anyway, the responses fell into two categories- those that loved the idea and vowed to incorporate the philosophy in their routine, and those that believed the “have fun” philosophy detracted from those that choose to follow strict plans that aren’t enjoyable.
This dichotomy seems to exist among two distinct groups- those that have a chance of winning and those that don’t. For those at the front of the pack,the “run for fun” idea may not be that great of a plan. Maybe you do need that “work no matter how much it sucks” attitude to out-train the competition.
Of course, maybe the people that win could do even better if they chilled a bit and took a more laid-back approach. Who knows? I’d always recommend people experiment to find what works best for them.
What about those of us that have no hope of winning? At Western, I know I would never be able to beat Kilian. Even if I didn’t have several jobs, a wife, and three kids, or I did have the mental fortitude and training grounds to train for the specifics of this race, I wouldn’t beat him. There were about 300 people running Western States that were in the same category. Our race wasn’t against another person, we ran the race for ourselves.
Some were completing their first 100 miler. Others were after a PR. Many wanted to get that silver buckle. A handful of us were just there to experience a bad-ass event. In short- we didn’t toe that line to take home that cougar trophy.
This blog isn’t written for the front runners. I’m flattered when seriously fast runners read my stuff, but you fast dudes aren’t in the same class. I belong with a group that would DNF a race for the opportunity to drink beer with good friends. I belong to a group that does this for recreation. I belong to a group that wants to have fun.
My central ideas behind my “run for fun” training philosophy is simple- it makes running more enjoyable for those 300 that have no hope of winning AND by taking a more relaxed approach, performance may actually increase.
Kate Kift’s Run Smiley Collective is a perfect example (and part of my inspiration) of the idea that running should be intrinsically enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong- there’s a lot of people that get intrinsic joy out of tracking mileage and conforming to a rigid schedule. If that’s you, that’s cool. To each their own.
I’m interested in the masses that feel they HAVE to conform to a rigid schedule, but hate it. I’m contending that there IS an alternative that can make all running enjoyable. Life is too short to be miserable, especially if it involves running.
How to Run for Fun
How do I describe a plan that, by definition, isn’t a plan? Good question. I’m flying by the seat of my pants here, but try this:
Step One: Throw out all your previous training plans and ideas of “types” of runs. If you own my book, ignore those pages. If you’re adventurous, rip them out. If you own the digital version… any techies want to help me out with that one? Anyway, get rid of your previous notions of long runs, Fartleks, Yasso 800’s, etc.
Step Two: Package up your Garmin (or whatever GPS you use to track mileage) and ship them to a OCD friend. Don’t want to give it away? Put it on your pet’s collar and track their movements. The idea- stop logging your runs. Instead of looking at numbers to determine if you’re getting better, judge your improvement by how much you enjoy the physical act of movement when running.
Step Three: Learn to listen to your body. Your own body will tell you when to run and when not to run.
Step Three a: Understand that quitting is okay. If you start a run and feel like garbage after warming up, throw in the towel. Don’t be a hero. Do something else unrelated to running instead.
Step Three b: Take advantage of good runs. Some days you’ll feel great! Take advantage of it and run farther and faster. This is what will ultimately lead to great performances, so hammer it when it feels right.
Step Four: Learn to smile and be nice to people. If it’s a training run, say hi to people. If it’s a race, thank the volunteers. Shake their hand. Pat them on the back.
Step Five: Stop occasionally. Look around. Take in the scenery. Smell the air. Listen to the sounds. Take off your shoes (hopefully many of you were already barefoot) and feel the ground.
Step Six: Don’t have a time, pace, or distance goal in training. In races, your goal should always be to have fun. Good performances will be a natural result of this entire process.
That’s it. Six relatively easy steps. For those that are so inclined, give it a shot. If the idea repulses you, again, that’s cool. But if you ever feel burn-out or over-training creeping in, running is too important to give up. Remember the Run for Fun plan.