As readers of our first book know, I was fortunate enough to be coached by Lynn Jennings for a 2009 marathon. The 1992 Olympic bronze medalist and I often went on long runs or did track workouts together. But even when I did the majority of my runs solo, her advice echoed in my head. One of the most memorable things she told me: “Don’t do more than the workout calls for. You won’t impress me, and you’ll just overtax yourself.” From there, she’d explain that if the training plan said run 14 miles at long run pace, I wasn’t doing my body any favors by running it faster, say, at marathon pace. She stressed that each workout had a purpose—build endurance, increase speed, encourage recovery—and by messing with the formula, the gains could be lost.
I was reminded of Lynn advice on Sunday during my final long-ish run before starting the taper for the Boston Marathon. The Marathon: Own It plan from Train Like a Mother called for 14-16 miles. I’d been hankering to run part of a route I typically bike, but I wasn’t sure of the distance. A quick check of a map-routing site told me I’d be well within that range.
Not! Around Mile 10, I realized my long run was going to be, well, too long. All my pals who have run Boston have told me to take the taper extra-seriously so this was definitely not the run to shun Lynn’s sage advice. What to do? Detour by a friend’s house to see if she could give me a ride home? Call Jack and ask him to pile the clan into the van to retrieve me in a few miles?
Hmmm….Instead, divine providence intervened. Running down a random, little-used street, I suddenly heard a woman say my name. It was Levi, a runner I admire greatly, asking me if I wanted to a ride. Normally I’d pass—my overbuilt sports ego wouldn’t permit skipping miles, especially “in front of” a mother (and now grandmother) who used to run sub-3:00 marathons—but today was different. I hopped in, asking her to drop me off a mile from my digs. The ride meant instead of covering nearly 17 miles, my Garmin clicked to 15.16 when I hit home. Instead of feeling like a slacker for trimming my run, I felt proud I’d stayed true to the plan.
If you’re not on a set training plan (say, oh, one of the nine in TLAM), covering a little extra distance or going a little faster isn’t going to set you back. But messing too much with prescribed workouts can wreck havoc with your race day results or your performance in hard workouts. If you push too hard in your weekend long run, chances are good you’ll feel sluggish in Tuesday’s track session. Or run too fast in Friday’s tempo, and your legs might turn to lead on Sunday’s 12-miler.
So ‘fess up: How true do you stay to a prescribed workout? Do you have trouble turning off your inner overachiever?