By Harry Hall
Just after February's Super Bowl, "Spike TV--the first network for men," aired a special called, "10 Things every Guy Should Do." While I somehow missed the program, I was probably busy dismantling a bomb or planning my solo effort to climb Mt. Everest, it got me to thinking about what runners should experience.
What should runners do or know to ensure inclusion on in-depth conversations, to show that you are truly part of the "run" crowd, that you are serious about the sport, not just some superficial "runner wannabe?"
So I've compiled a list. If you are serious about becoming a real runner--or want to see if you are one, the following are required for unofficial membership into runnerdom.
1. RED LINE A MARATHON.
Completing a marathon won't cut it. You must red line it. Marathon train specifically for six months to a year. Run twice a day. Do several runs of 20 miles plus. Get that weekly mileage up to 50, 60, 70 or more. Qualify for Boston. Break three hours. Go for that PR. Calculate projected split times. Discover what "hitting the wall" means. If you only do it once, you'll have a whole new outlook on the experience.
2. SERVE ON A RACE COMMITTEE
Next time you run in a mega-race, check out the numbers of volunteers on hand. They're everywere, doing all kinds of somtimes mundane, but necessary tasks. Directing parking, answering questions, acting as course monitors, manning registration tables are just a few of the numerous tasks performed by race-day voluneteers. If you've helped races in this capacity, congratulations--and thank you. But we're about taking your running experience to the next level. Organizing a successful race takes months of planning, involving lots of frustration. You must secure permits, get police, mark a course, find sponsors. You see the time commitment first hand when you serve on a race committee. It also gives you an opportunity to give back to the sport and get involved in the community. The process is sometimes tough, and the reward doesn't come until after the final trophies have been presented. You get an after-race glow similar to setting that long-awaited PR. From that time on, you see the people who conduct races in a new and more appreciate light. And it guarantees you won't ever want to direct one.
3. LEARN TO SCORE A CROSS-COUNTRY MEET.
Who was crowned NCAA football champions this January? If you said, "Not enough information to answer, " congratulations. That means you knew that, thanks to the Bowl Championship Series, two teams could claim that title: Southern California and LSU. If you knew that Rice was baseball's champion in '03, you really know your college sports. Now a toughie. Who was the NCAA Division I cross-country champions las fall? Arkansas? BYU? Wisconsin? Wrong on all counts. For both men and women, it was Stanford. Real runners not only know that but how cross-country winners are determined. Here's how it works: Each cross-country team consists of a maximum of seven runners, five of whom score. The team score is essentially each runner's place. A perfect cross-country score is 1+2+3+4+5=15. Sixth and seventh runners act as displacers. If your sixth runner beats the fifth runner of another team, you just added a point to their total, without affecting your own. Incomplete teams or individual runners' results are thrown out of final team tallies. If a solo runner wins, the second place athlete scores one point, and everyone else moves up. The process is pretty simple. And you don't have that annoying BCS controversy.
4. LEARN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NAMES.
Lydiard, Wilt, Cerutty, Daniels. These are some of the greatest researchers/coaches/motivators in distances history. The beauty of distance running is that the top names are often accessible to the public. You can learn first hand the stories, breakthroughs, heartbreaks and achievements. It's kind of like a high school quarterback learning his craft from Peyton Manning.
5. RUN IN A CROSS-COUNTRY RACE.
Sure, adventure races are a rage right now. But maybe you aren't so much of a risk taker that you want to kayak or mountain climb in the dark, but you would like an occasional change from the weekend road 5k/10k. So run in a cross-country meet. They are hard to find, and mostly occur in the fall, but they effort is worth it. Doing a 5k to 8k distance with hills, mud, hay bales, trees, undulating courses all add to the fun/strategy of running. You taste the experience even if you just jog trhough a cross-country race. A tee-shirt I saw at a high school meet says it best, "I no longer fear hell. I run cross-country."
6. TRAIN FOR AND RACE A MILE ON THE TRACK.
Often, we judge speed by a 5k or 10k time. But have you ever trained for a mile? Do you ever treat summer track as a season, and focus on trying to improve that mile time? Do several weeks of intervals, and pay attention to those 1/4 mile splits. See how your body responds under that added running intensity of the track--like cross-country, it's a different world. Besides, the added work will help you redline that fall marathon.
7. GRAB SOME FRIENDS AND RUN IN A RELAY.
This is a popular way for runners to spend a weekend. Take three, four or five friends or co-workers, drive or fly several hundred miles, and be a part of a relay. You develop some teamwork, the camaraderie and you might run faster, too. Besides, you get to see different parts of the country. Some popular races are Corpus Christi's Beach to Bay Marathon Relay in May, and August's Hood to Coast in Oregon--a 196 point-to-point coures involving 12 member teams wo run three times each in approximately a 24-hour period.
8. KEEP A TRAINING LOG FOR A YEAR.
Now just how fast was that run? How severe were those weather conditions? What made that such a tough workout? All those questions can be recalled by keeping a training log. You find out a lot about yourself, abilities, and can marvel at how quickly you progress. You can record those cherished PRs, why that age-group competitor beat you on a particular day, and what went right in a race or training run. Some running logs give you inspirational messages, pace charts, ask you specifically about the weather, the course you ran, and who joined you on the run. Note of caution: you can no longer fudge on times either in workouts or races. You can be discovered too easily.
9. WATCH BOTH PREFONTAINE MOVIES.
Steve Prefontaine, arguably America's greatest distance runner died at age 24 in a 1975 automobile accident. The dynamic athlete's life and battle with the track establishment was chronicled in twon movies: "Prefontaine" (1997) and "Without Limits" ( 1998). The original is superior and more factual, and less Hollywood. Worth the price of admission, or movie rental, is seeing R. Lee Ermey (host of History Channel's Mail Call) steal the show as Oregon Track Coach Bill Bowerman. For extra credit, buy a documentary on "Pre" titled "Fire on the Track."
10. SPEND BOSTON WEEKEND IN BOSTON.
You don't have to qualify. You don't have to run. But every runner should experience this wonderful city on these magical days. What other big race starts on Monday? Has the tradition? Even the town's beloved Red Sox acquiesce to the race. Always at home on Patriot's Day, they begin the game at 10:00 a.m., so spectators are free to watch the lead runners pass Fenway near the 25 mile mark.
11. Participate in a virtual running community Spend hours and hours posting at an online running centered message board or chat room. Create several personas. Argue Gallowalking. Discuss what makes a runner and what makes a jogger. Bash elites that run in the same races as you. Learn training tips and race strategy from others that run. Learn to identify those that haven't run a mile since the first Bush administration. Quit the site at least three different times citing philosophical differences with other members. For extra benefit, become a moderator.
Starting with number 1. Red line a marathon. I think this assumes that to be a "real" runner you have to be a distance runner. That's just absurd. The distance isn't really important. But if we are going with distance runners, I still don't agree with it. I do feel that you have to give at least 1 race of at least a 5k everything you've got. If you aren't in some kind of pain, you didn't give it your all. I think too often people are limited by being uncomfortable. I do it too... I cut my long run short by a mile today because I didn't want to push myself that far. I've had races where I just didn't give enough. The first 10k I ran, I really pushed myself. The last quarter mile was definitely one of the hardest pushes and sprints I've ever done. I was hurting the whole way through, and felt like I was going to hurl for at least 10 minutes. While trying to recover, a non-runner smirked and asked if this was the runner's high that people talk about. I didn't say anything, but I felt great.
2. Serve on a race committee. We're getting away from the pure sport aspect of running, and moving toward a community event. I do think it's a great experience... [note: I haven't yet volunteered but I do plan on doing it] definitely something worth doing. But again, it doesn't define you as a runner.
3. Scoring a cross country meet. The great thing about running is that you can be a great runner while knowing nothing. There are really no rules involved. I'd say some dedicated runner who knows zilch about Boston, scoring, races, etc yet runs 10 miles a day in the middle of no-where is more of a "real runner" than someone who does all these things.
4. Significance of names. Yep, again... don't agree. In fact, I really don't agree with any of the rest so I'll just stop here. The names have no importance. It's all about finding what works for you, even if you dream it up yourself. Doing 100 squats instead of running a day? Sure, if it gives you the results. We appreciate what plans have been put forth by the great names, but I don't think they're that significant.
Most of this list seems to be associated too much with the "side effects" of running and less of "actual" running. Here's my list.
1. Redline a race. Any distance, any style. Put yourself through hell for that one weekend morning.
2. Set a serious training program. By serious, I mean something that will put you in position to improve to your potential as quickly as possible (without injury). Find what works for you, and use it. Stick to the training program for at least 6 months, preferably at least a year to see results.
3. Study your log. Make sure you document times, types of workouts, etc. Figure out what gives you the best results and change as necessary.
4. Have several running routes. Have backups for backups. A parade on Sunday when you do your long run? You better have someplace else to run.
5. Strive to improve. Whatever your reason for running, you have to get better. Run faster, farther, up steeper hills, whatever. This is the most important one for me. I know people that run 5 miles a day, 6 days a week, and I don't consider them a real runner. They have no goals, no ambition. They just plod along for 5 miles, take a shower, then continue with the rest of thier lives. They've been running the same 10k times for years now. What's the point? They aren't developing at all, and they apparently have no drive to.
6. This one is sure to stir up something. Be injured due to running. Obviously no one should strive to get injured. But I think that if you're running to your potential every week with training, at some point in your life you will push it too hard because you want it that badly.
7. Run while on vacation. That's just one specific example, but more generally, I'd say have running so ingrained in your life that nothing stops it. Where ever you are, running doesn't stop.
8. ENJOY IT! If you aren't running because you like it, you aren't a real runner.
That's all I've got for now, but I'm sure I can think of more.
What a load of c**p.Why?
I'm good on all counts 'cept for that Boston visit. Someday I tell ya, someday.
Yeah, I don't either but part of my whole problem with the list is this sentence
I'm not that worried about my inclusion on in-depth running conversations or whether or not I fit in with the 'run' crowd. However, I do like the idea of the list reminding us that there are other parts of the sport than the niches we carve for ourselves and camp out it. Some things on the list are interesting (some flame worthy) so I thought I'd post it here and start the ideas flowing on what might be good or changed on his list. I should have added the little box he put at the bottom of the article that said something to the effect of every top 10/top 100/etc list can be argued and that it was more of a discussion point.
I like a lot of yours MED. I agree with 'redline a race' not so much a marathon. Not everyone is capable of that at the marathon distance, but I think his point is to push yourself as far as you can and that I do agree with. I was far far far from 'redlining' when I completed my marathon. Just keeps pushing the carrot out there, pushing you further I guess.
Serving on a race committee I think is huge. At least volunteering is. With racing being the central part of our sport the only way to keep it going is to be a part of the behind-the-scenes too. It helps you appreciate what goes on in order for you to have 5k/10k etc to race in.
I think several of the others are good too (mile, cross-country, relay) in that they help you gain appreciation for the many many aspects of the sport. Its not all about the marathon. Its not all about the 5k or track either. Its all of it and there is something to be gained from any of them.
I don't know the greats...but he makes a decent point there as well The beauty of distance running is that the top names are often accessible to the public. You can learn first hand the stories, breakthroughs, heartbreaks and achievements.
Just some thought provoking points. For me nothing makes anyone a 'real' runner. What is the alternative, a fake runner? But I think this reminded me to think outside my daily training. Keep discussing. :wiggle:
But there is a chasm in our sport. There is a mindset of runners out here that I include myself in that immerse themselves so totally in the sport that we do all these things. We organize races, we run cross-country races, we run marathons and everything in between. In the mountains and on the beaches. We bring our running shoes, literally, everywhere we go. There's no day that's not good for a run. There's no race not worth entering. There's no challenge not worth accepting. There's no history not worth learning.
I make no presumption to know where any of you might lie on my immersion scale, but the reason I like Harry's article here is because for 25 years, I have been on the "total immersion" end of the running lifestyle. I know the names and faces of not only elites, but all those that race in my region. Race results are always the most newsworthy item when I open the paper. Talking about running is by and far my most favorite topic.
I'll give Harry a wide latitude because I see between the lines that he too is an absolute running junkie. It's not just a hobby. It's not just a fitness regime. It's not just a stress reliever. It's not just a personal statement. To a good many, running is a lifestyle unto its own. And to those that it is, I'm right there with ya.
I would agree too. Gotta be careful. "Real" alienates far too many, like myself, who is quite serious about what he's doing, but not had the opportunity to accomplish all those things. I read it and though hmm guess I'm not a real runner then, just a wannabe <sigh>
I like immersed too.
I think it was more of a challenge to have people explore the other parts of the running universe that don't get as much attention as the 5ks and Marathons.
Just like some people learn they totally rock at 10ks after running only 5ks or others find that trail running fulfills them in ways that road races never could. We are all runners and all have different preferences and strengths. If you tried out some of the things on his list, you might find that all this time running cross country type races was the thing for you. Or that being involved on a race committee is something you will want to do for the rest of your life. Or you will learn you don't really like those things, but at least get appreciation for those that do.
I personally think that his point about training to run a mile on the track is very important. Everyone should try this even if it is just a time trial you do alone. Spending 2-4 weeks training to run that mile on the track will teach you so much about running. It is the cornerstone distance of our sport. Seeing how it feels to run a single mile and experiencing the process of training to improve a few seconds on your time, even over a 14 day span will give you benefits for your 5, 10k, half, and marathon training.
But if you don't do that, you are still a runner. But if you were looking for something new and exciting and had never done that before, then that would be a really beneficial thing to do.