Okay, yeah, I’m mixing metaphors here.  Technically, me and the marathon are in a trial separation, but thinking more about it and the marathon is really more of my mistress.  The training keeps me away from my wife more than I’d like, no matter how amazingly awesome I plan my week.  And it’s really the only thing I spend significant amounts of money on other than my wife1.

On the other hand, my wife knows all about my mistress and has, at times, even encouraged me to go see her again.  So, uh, I guess we have an open relationship there.

But this post isn’t about the marathon.  I am not currently planning another marathon until at least March of 2011.  I am not going to run the inaugural Layton Marathon in a final attempt to qualify for Boston.  I am not going to “surprise” my wife with a trip to New Hampshire to visit her family with the true agenda being the Smuttynose Rockfest or another go at the New Hampshire Marathon.  I’m not even going to consider any of the two dozen marathons happening on 10.10.10.  I’m even turning a blind eye to the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon in Ashland, a mere 186 miles through the Deschutes National Forest from Bend, where we’ll likely be living at the time.  No third running of the Philly Marathon, which would border on letting it become a Thanksgiving Tradition® with my family2

But, as you can tell, I’ve been peeking.  And researching.  And idly saying “hey, hon, this marathon looks interesting.  Oh, no, I’m not thinking of registering.  Just sayin’ it looks neat.”  I need to stop that.

Shortly after my post-Grandma’s3 commitment to step off the obsessive compulsive marathon train, we got our monthly mail drop, which included an issue of Running Times with a feature on this specific topic.  The short version of the article is to quit obsessing with marathons.  Most of us, eventually, will get to the point where we know that we can finish the race, but plateau performance-wise.  Typically, this is because we can’t dedicate the time to both get in the miles necessary to improve our performance and still have the energy for the speed work and other skill drills.  It goes on to sing the praises of trying to improve performance at shorter distances (though acknowledging the psychological challenge most of us face training for “just a 10k”) instead of just “training through” them on the way to a marathon.  Which is exactly what I want to do.  I had the conclusion, but not the “how I landed here” logic, which Jonathan Beverly nailed in his article.

There’s even a little sidebar (at the end of the online version) outlining suggested miles per week, long run range, and speed workouts that you should consider a goal for “serious” competitive efforts.  Granted, I’m not even in the 5k range for total mileage except during the core of a marathon ramp up, but I’m working on getting there.  On the other hand, I’m not really going for “serious competition” either – I’m going for “serious personal best efforts.”  If I hit more age group awards on the way, that just makes it more fun.

The hardest part of training for me has always been the speed work, hill work, and other drills.  It’s the one thing that’s really tough about traveling all the time4.  While it’s pretty easy to plot a route for a run, those routes aren’t always appropriate for specific workouts.  It’s psychologically tough to do measured sprints on the same course you normally go a stead pace on, but I’m getting better at it.  Tracks are usually a more focused option, especially when doing a workout where GS accuracy ain’t gonna cut it – or will take an hour to program – but not every community I stay in has a public track.  I’m also a big opponent of driving to a run, and try to minimize that behavior, especially when the run would be shorter than the drive.  And hills, well, let’s just say that not all hills are created equal.  I have yet to find something to top Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, GA for a steep, steady, safe hill of a decent distance5.

But these are all excuses.  And they can be overcome.

I currently only have one 5k on the calendar for the remainder of 2010, but I can probably find another later in the year.  (Anyone know a good central Jersey Turkey Trot?)  And nothing it going to happen with my 10k goals unless I sign up for one, right?

So, step 1, stop stalking the marathon.  She wants nothing to do with me and is seeing other men.

Step 2, set more concrete goals for shorter distances;

  • A sub-19:00 5k (by the end of 2010?)  PR is 19:18, May 2009, with a 20:41 average in 14 races over 3 years
  • A sub-40:00 10k PR is 40:34, March 2009, a 44:15 average in 6 races
  • Just PR in a half marathon PR is 1:37:46, January 2008 – I’ve only run three halves, one of which was a trail run
  • Enjoy running I don’t ever really not enjoy it, but letting myself get frustrated by goals I don’t have the time to realistically achieve had been dampening my spirit

Step 3, come up with a plan to achieve said goals.  Training plans ain’t just for marathons.  My running “career” started very disorganized; run a 5k with two days’ training, run around the same loop at the same pace for a few weeks, sign up for a half marathon, run with a group a couple of times but engage in no real plan, decide on a full marathon five months out with a double pump (10k + 5k), IT band injury, and half marathon along the way, in that order, and then start taking training plans seriously.

Oi.

Has anyone else successfully broken their addiction to running the same distance over and over (whether it’s a marathon or not)?  How did you do it?  Any tips or tricks to stay focused?

Show 5 footnotes

  1. And food, fuel, and somewhere to park, but that’s for both of us, so, well, it still fits my theory.
  2. I am, however, holding a little bit of breath for a post-Thanksgiving flight to Montserrat to run their Volcano Half, but that’s not a marathon.
  3. Okay, maybe mid-to-late-Grandma’s.
  4. Well, the one running-related thing.  I’m also unable to garden, have a workshop, or get decent soy chips outside of Meijer’s store region.
  5. Although the hills on the North Shore of Lake Superior and, well, most of San Francisco come pretty close.