Sunday, August 21, 2011

A 100 Mile Journey

I recently accomplished a long standing running goal of mine to run 100 miles in one week.  Now, running 100 miles in a week may sound impressive to some (it impresses me), but in and of itself, it really doesn’t mean that much.  I’ll admit it, 100 miles is a nice round number and distance that most, both runners and non-runners, can relate to, sort of like the four minute mile (I'm still working on that one).  And as much as reaching this weekly mileage is an accomplishment almost anyone can feel proud of, it is what it represents that matters most to me.  In essence, the 100 mile week was the destination and was a worthwhile one to reach, but it was really the journey to get to that place that was the most satisfying and significant.

For me to get to 100 miles meant that I first had to run 70, then 80, then 90 miles in a week.  If it was simply a matter of testing myself on whether or not I could run 100 miles in one week, I am sure I could have and would have done much sooner.  But it was not a matter of what I could do in one week of running, it was a matter of months, even years of training.  What this mark really signifies is how I got to a level in my running that 100 miles was the appropriate weekly mileage at that point in the training cycle.  Getting to that point was a reasonably slow and calculated process of progressively increasing my mileage within the context of a number of target races all the while running the usual hard workouts and speed session necessary to get faster and stay sharp.  It has never been a mission for the miles.  That for me would get pretty boring, no matter how much I simply enjoy running.  Rather, I want to get faster and stronger and that only happens with hard work and continually building on what has been accomplished.  Running 100 miles in a week was result of having a plan, putting in the work, and maintaining a level of consistency.

Did that journey make me stronger and more able to run even more and more miles?  It sure did, but it also made me fitter, more efficient, and most importantly, faster as a runner.  If I was asked what I think is the one thing that has made me a better runner over the last year, I would say it has been running more miles.  And for those that know me and how I train and how big a proponent I am of supplemental training modalities, especially for masters runners, that might come as a surprise.  But simply running more miles, while staying relatively healthy and continuing to maintain the other key components of my training program, has provided benefits to the whole training package.

Of course there is a point at which one can run too many miles and it no longer has a beneficial effect, where one becomes seriously injured or is not able to recover quickly enough.  I think I’m probably close to that point when running 100 miles in a week, but who knows.  I don’t plan to intentionally push to the limit to find that breaking point, but I do expect that I’ll hit 100 miles in a week again sometime in the future. 

And in the spirit of honest story telling, I’ll admit it, as I came the end of my planned long run on Sunday morning my running log totaled 97 miles.  I should have been done for the week.  I ran what I needed to and completed the workouts as planned.  There was nothing more to do, so I did what any runner with a passion for this sport would do, I went for another run that afternoon.

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