Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 11 Jul 2000 08:40:09 -0400

What Now?

(from RC 312)

Twice in one recent week the same question arrived from distant cities in opposite directions. It's a tough one. How does someone ease down from serious competitor into recreational runner?

The better the racer has been, the harder this downgrade is to accept. Both runners who wrote to me have considerable talent and are struggling to reconcile their old image of themselves with the new reality.

Both runners would like to keep competing, even as they slow. But their bodies have other ideas, rebelling with injury as training pushes to the levels thought to be necessary.

These two men asked if they must run less and resign themselves to life without racing. I told them that was one choice but not the only possibility.

They might not like the choice I've made, but it works for me. I've long since retired from real racing but still love the race atmosphere. So I run IN races without racing them.

Someone more competitive might still want to race but be haunted by old times no longer reachable. To them I'd suggest the Jack Foster approach.

The ex-2:11 marathoner said as he slowed that the only difference between his races past and present appeared on the watch. "All the other experiences of racing that attracted me initially are the same as they have always been, and they still appeal to me."

The effort can remain constantly high, even as the time erodes. Ways can also be found to avoid the injuries that interfere with these efforts.

George Sheehan never lost his urge to race at a high level. Until his final illness struck, he always was among the best in the country in his age-group. Even with cancer he made the final of the World Vets 800.

At almost 61 he PRed in the marathon with 3:01 -- on 30 miles a week. That mileage figure isn't significant, though, because George didn't count it. He said the practice often hurt runners by urging them to run too much on days when they should have done little or nothing -- which left them too weary to run longer on other days.

George himself was hurt a lot before adopting the training plan that served him best. That was to take three solid runs a week, two long ones and a race, and to rest the other days.

My two identity-challenged correspondents are frustrated by injuries when they try to train for races. They might look to the Good Doctor for guidance.

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