Runners are supposed to train by running, right? The logic seems simple enough. Indeed, if you’re an elite runner, you probably need to pile up a shit ton of miles.
But what if you’re a recreational runner that has little hope of cracking the top 10% in any given race? Can you do other activities besides running?
This is a question I’ve explored in the past. After all, my single best race performance came after months of very little training (Western States, 2011.) The issue resurfaced after Shelly and I did unusually well in our marathon last week. She finished in about 5:11 (I DNFed at the end) which was exceedingly good considering we fucked around for the entire race. We took our time. We walked occasionally. We spent A LOT of time chatting at aid stations.
Our training over the last three months have consisted of about four runs, none exceeding 12 miles. We do run to our gym, which is about four miles there and back. Otherwise, our training has been KemmeFitness-style workouts, boxing, kick boxing, and jiu jitsu.
Not only did that training result in a decent time, our recovery was excellent. We felt pretty good the rest of the day. We were fine the following day. It would seem that our performance is just as good if not better than the times we follow a dedicated run training plan.
There is one noteworthy element to this idea- both of us have several years-worth of endurance base built up. The “no running” plan might not work as well for someone new to the sport.
Anyway, it’s comforting to know we can run races successfully with little or no actual running as training. Like other elements of our lives, we like to add plenty of variety. Races or adventure runs in the mountains are fun, but we get bored of the “gotta get the miles in” runs. We’d rather add new activities (like the mma training) than doing the same thing day after day.
This idea isn’t new. Aside from our own experimentation with very low mileage training, our friends Christian and Krista have successfully run ultras with little to no actual running. I’ve also met plenty of runners that do very little running as training.
The magic numbers, at least for me, seem to be an 8-10 mile run every other week, with a marathon-distance or longer run every 6-8 weeks.
So… if you’re a runner that’s not really fond of running (there are a few others out there), take up some other physical activity. Run an occasional race. Do an occasional long run. You don’t have to be a slave to a running regimen.