In fact, that I had time and mental space to do some reviewing was what triggered my thoughts to begin with.
I began the Run Less Run Faster (RLRF) program on January 7, setting my schedule according to plan for my best 5K pace, at the time a puny 35 minutes. I wanted to be extremely conservative. Coming off my year of plantar fasciitis it seemed a reasonable, workable plan that would ease me back into regular workout stresses.
Over the next six weeks I followed the program religiously, with one exception. After about three weeks I found the 35-min 5K time unreasonably slow (my PR for 5K: 25 minutes), so I adjusted my programmed time under RLFR to 32 minutes, a minor adjustment. It went well.
Two more weeks, that seemed too slow. I had tons of energy left, felt great urge to speed up on all workouts, so went to a 30-min base. A bit too fast. I adjusted back to 32. Then come week seven, an interesting thing happened. I didn't feel like running.
So I found all kinds of other demands infringing on my time: I just don't have time to run today. This week. Then my trip to Italy came, and of course I couldn't run then.
Came back, found myself dreading the run. What's that about? It wasn't difficult running at that pace, not exhausting, not tiring or painful in the moment, no great soreness afterward. The workouts were quite easy, actually.
Rather than return to RLRF I decided to take a couple of weeks at running according to HR, as I've been doing these past years. And doing so I've easily returned to 3/week, looking forward to runs, easily finding time and energy, enthusiasm.
Here are the differences I can pinpoint at the moment that make the transition to RLRF a challenge for me:
- The paces for each workout are precise. Deviating by even .3/mi is too much, if you're following the prescription seriously and want the promised results. For me this requires carrying my GPS unit in my left hand, staring at it almost continuously, making adjustments repeatedly to reflect changes in windspeed, terrain, topography, ground surface, traffic conditions. Focus: running.
- Two of the three workouts each week require running under controllable conditions. A track is best; even and smooth terrain is next best, the less traffic the better. The number of such locations is limited, within the range of easy distance from my locker room. This encourages running the same runs repeatedly.
- Finding a suitable pace is more challenging than it appears for the seasoned runner who is recovering from an injury. Exactly how much should the training program push you? There appears to be no progression of times built into the schedule: the pace decided on for week 12 (starting) remains the same for twelve weeks. Distances and intervals vary, but I found a moving sweet spot for optimal pace.
- The commitment required is total for the program entered, with no variation for other opportunities, shifting priorities, varying interests. Not only must the participant do all the prescribed workouts, he/she must do *only* the prescribed activities. If your grandchild wants you to enter a 5K with him at his school, you violate the RLRF conditions to do so.
- I ran my fasted marathon since 2001.
- I qualified for Boston and ran my fastest ever.
- I ran far faster than I ever imagined I could.
- I felt great, ran with great form, and finished with a PR.
So I come to this:
I have to decide what it is I want out of running.
If I want increased performance, faster times, perhaps deeper conditioning, RLRF is a great program.
If I want to integrate running into a way of life as a way to enrich my personal, family and spiritual well-being, I'll follow the patterns shaped by my daily decisions over the last dozen or so years. I'll run by HR pace over richly varied terrains, enjoying the weather, the mountains, the trees, the wind, with conditions and challenges dictated by my more immediate states of being.
Where I am in my life at the moment is clearly for running as a way of life, not running as preparation for a PR. RLRF will stay on my shelf as an option for when I'm feeling the need to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
And Jackson Hole Marathon in September will be a joy to run, soaking in the glory of God's creation every step of the way. Even if I wind up walking a bit.