Saturday, 20 February 2010

How Many Halves Make a Goal?

It is a sad fact that as you get older you tend to run more slowly. It does depend on when you start training, mind. I started at 40 and did my best times a few years later. I might have further PBs in me if I worked harder at it, but I have other priorities just now. I mainly just run for health and for fun these days; anything else is gravy.

As I understand it, the muscles can cope with the stresses and strains of hard training for about 15 years before they lose the ability to incorporate more muscle fibre (or something like that). I must admit to being a bit grey on all the specific physiology. One can still run perfectly well, but just not at appreciably faster speeds. We have 60 year olds in the club that used to crank out 6 minute miles and still easily do 8. At my best a few years ago I never got below 8 minute miles for a ten mile race, so it is more genetic than anything; but age does tell.

The thing is, once you aren’t improving your race times and you accept that you aren’t going to, there has to be another motivation. Most of us need some sense of making progress, of improving in some way. Many people just discard all their PB (personal best) race times before a certain age and start over chasing best times since age 50, or some such. Others go over the top with mileage, plodding on for 2 or 3 hours at a time. One guy, Ron Hill, aged 72, has run every single day for the last 46 years, or something crazy like that. Some runs only have lasted 10 minutes, but he hasn’t missed a day even when practically on his death bed. Impressive, but mental.

Then there are the traveling runners. I mentioned, a little while back, the 100 marathon club. This isn’t so much about mileage, I don’t think, as it is about travel. One marathon, 26.2 miles, a week is nothing for your average road runner if that’s all you do. The point about this, besides wearing the t-shirt to the pub, is getting out and seeing the country with your friends. These folks tend to be retired and whilst they are by all means fit, they are just plodding through the miles.The running part sounds hopelessly boring to me, not to mention really expensive for the quality of travel experience one would have.

Our friend, Bob, recently set himself the goal of running 100 half-marathons. This makes a lot more sense to me as a half generally only takes 2 or 3 hours and if you are fit you can have a shower, a good lunch and go back to normal life. Already having 70 under his belt, this is a very realistic goal. I’m guessing he’s been running about 25 years now.

I got to wondering if a person ran 200 half-marathons, would that be the same as being in the 100 Marathon Club? Halves are my favourite race distance, but Bill remarked the other night that he was beginning to favour 10Ks (6.1 miles). I’ve only done 13 half-marathons so far, so 200 is a long way away! Maybe I could just add up the miles on my race log (986 race miles in 14 years) and aim for 2,610 miles, the equivalent of 100 marathons? That might take a while, too.

We runners can spend endless hours poring over running logs and playing with numbers. We really are a boring lot. Good job we have each other to inflict ourselves on.


Boywilli said...

Ron Hill is one of my running heroes, He is not as nice a person as Bruce Tulloh, but then Bruce is not quite as mad.
However, if you look round all the runners you know, eccentricity prevails
My friend Paul has set out to emulate the one run every day. He has done this for 5 years now. It has been a success for him spiritually but his running has suffered as he has not rested an injury

Struggler said...

We are indeed a boring lot, but we love being boring! I really can't imagine running 100 half marathons, let alone 200, but I would love to run just one in under 2 hours before my knee gives up the fight completely. I reckon I can do it; if I'm still trying for that goal in 20 years, I'll have to rethink it!