Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Advice from a friend

Let me set the stage. I have an extremely well-meaning (very important as this is not someone coming out of the blue to offer unsolicited advice) running friend who often tries to get me to focus on one particular race. While this is a common question or shall I say needling from many, this one friend seems intent on making sure I do not waste my "talent". Again, I appreciate his intentions so there is no negativity directed towards him.

In response to my 20kc recap the other day, he responded as such:

"Hi Dane,Now that you have run 7 million races of different distances, its time to focus on a goal such as running a 2:45 marathon. There is a big difference between 2:45 and 3 hrs. If you can do this, you can actually say you have improved.

Running lots of races without getting better or faster is equivalant to running hard by yourself, etc. It would be different if you were some run of mill guy who runs races to stay in shape. However, you are a fanatic(in a good way) and might was well focus your passion for the sport so that you do not run out of steam before you were able to run a fast marathon.

Eventually all marathon runners die out as one can only take running 26.2 miles on a regular basis for so long. I do not expect you to listen to this as only injury leads one to run more carefuly."

I was going to respond to him in the forum where this was placed but instead decided to address it here in a more concise manner. Why? By no means did I want to embarrass or harangue a friend. I just wanted to let others know that I do have a plan, I d0o have a focus and I do see the bigger picture. So here is my response:

I didn't realize the horse had come back to life so that we could beat it to death again! :) But allow me to add my two cents since your response was directed at me.

I am unsure why you think I am presently unfocused or what I am doing is not a plan. My goal IS to do exactly what I am doing this year: run as many different distances improving in all of them as I go. Yes, even when I set PRs at certain distances, it is obvious they are not the best PR I could set for that distance. One simply cannot give their best to a race as short as a mile while also trying to set a new PR in a marathon with an idea also to run a fast time for a 24 hour run. It is impossible to do so. The distances and what goes into them are so vastly different that it is obvious I am either sacrificing speed or endurance or both by trying to scattershot my races. However, that is what I want to do right now in 2007. THAT is my goal. To show that it is possible to run fast times, relative to your ability, at a plethora of distances.

Why you refuse to acknowledge this as a “focus” is beyond me given how many times I have said it to you!

Listen, I know there is a huge gap b/w 2:45 and 3 hours. Once you hit that 3 hour barrier, dropping seconds is like dropping minutes for a person who runs a 5 hour marathon. However (and this is a point I have driven home often but not effectively), a 2:45, while "fast" is not FAST. My concentrating all my energy on running a 2:45 will simply move me from the group of "good" to "pretty good" but no where near "great" nor "elite". Presently, I don't have the desire to do to set aside time in my life to simply become “pretty good” at something. I have the desire to excel at something few have done. In addition, I simply want to see what I can actually do!
As you alluded to, I may run out of steam relatively soon. Luckily, I think I have many years of faster marathon times in me. But I think whatever “speed” I have in the shorter distances will evaporate long before my marathon times stop going down. Ergo, I will try to get some fast 5k and 10k times out first as undoubtedly THAT speed will be gone before my marathon speed will.

You say: "Eventually all marathon runners die out as one can only take running 26.2 miles on a regular basis for so long." I have heard similar refrains when I considered doing 52 in a year. Heck, my own running club doubted I would be able to run fast near the end, let alone be able to even FINISH them (No kidding, there was almost a NCAA-type pool placed on whether I would finish. I wish it had started because I would be quite rich betting on myself). But obviously, the shelf-life of these legs of mine is a little longer than others. Perhaps because I, like you, started "running" at such an "older" age. We don't have the miles and pounding and exertion that some of our brethren who raced all through high school and college do. Perhaps I missed out on some of my top-notch speed possibilities but so be it. I don't think pure speed is something I ever had anyway. Besides, Ed Whitlock, ran a 2:52 at age 69 and then a 2:54 at age 73. If that is dying out, I want me a little something of that!

In addition, you add "I do not expect you to listen to this as only injury leads one to run more carefuly." This quote makes the (untrue) assertion that you not only haven't told me this before (you have) or that I haven't listened or given it careful consideration (both which I have as well). Finally there is the imbedded in that statement the idea that I have been injury-free which is I tell you is completely untrue. I simply don’t complain abut my IT band or my exhausted body or my tired this or that as I hear so many other runners do. Often they do so right before a race that they end up smoking me in, so you can see the disdain I have for those who lay the mattresses out before a race.

I appreciate, truly your desire to help me maximize whatever talent I have. I know your desire to assist is genuine. I just cannot figure out why when you hand out advice you do not listen to the person speaking back to you.

Without any doubt whatsoever I have intentions to "focus" on a marathon someday and hopefully get a 2:45. I have 3 marathons planned for the remainder of the year where I hope to chip away at the 2:59 PR at each one. I think by the end of the year I will be in the low 2:50s and possibly break 2:50. But as I have said ad nauseum: who cares if I do? A sub 2:50 is hardly world-beating and if not for the plethora of slow Americans running the marathon these days, a 2:50 would barely be note-worthy.

You have told me in the past that I need to pick a distance and focus on it. Well since I have barely run them all and some I have only run once, perhaps twice, I can hardly know which distance I prefer before I can focus on it.

I am always happy to listen to constructive criticism. I welcome it. But it must be constructive first off. Second it cannot be the same criticism over and over again without at least some acknowledgement of what my previous responses were. If in 10 years I am lamenting how I wasted my talent or speed or something on racing too much, you have every right to smack me upside the head.

Until that point, please continue to give me advice. But I beg that you take into account that I may, just maybe, might possibly, probably have some sort of an idea of what I am doing.

Spreading the love right back to ya!


KLM said...

This all sounds so familiar. :)
You have a plan and you are doing that plan. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Dave Haaga said...

Well said. Whenever I hear/read about this issue I'm reminded of baseball writer [and later Red Sox exec] Bill James' comments upon discontinuing his annual "Baseball Abstract" book. Among other things, he'd grown tired of readers' telling him "you ought to write about [insert their favorite issue]......". Ditto the people who were furious at Bo ackson for wanting to play both baseball and football professionally instead of focusing enuf to perhaps become a hall of famer in one or the other.

It's your time and energy, and it's your talent. You get to decide what to do with it. The wide variety of choices different runners make in setting their goals is part of what keeps it interesting.

Congrats on the 20k -- that's a challenging race and always difficult weather conditions.

klottey4 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dane said...


Thanks for your comments. I agree without a doubt that anyone can do whatever they want with their energy and like with pro athletes when we tell them when they "should" retire, I feel it is up to the indivudal person.

My personal feeling is that in just flat-out races of pure speed, I simply do not have what it takes to even make all that much of a difference in the running world. Heck, the guy who won the race in 1:07 doesn't either and that is a BLISTERING time. I mean I couldn't hope to get within 8 minutes of that. And on the grand scale his time is pedestrian.

Thnak you. Laura ran a great race. wish I could have hung with her.

klottey4 said...

Alright, I'm gonna go ahead and put myself up on the chopping block,

I understand what you're saying, and I understand his point. If you want to have a plan, great, have a plan, go at it, excel, even exceed. But, as someone who hears you talk about your races, and your desires in that arena (and really anyone who reads your blogs, so I ain't that special), I know that each time you don't get a specified time, you lament about all the reasons why, and how disappointed you are. You keep saying it is in you to run a sub 3 or a whatever, but race after race, you're frustrated because it just isn't quite what you wanted; you're tired, it was just a little too soon after the last one. I've been listening to you talk about running for two years, I've learned a lot. Even though I just started, I'm an athlete, and I know that the only way to achieve true success is to train and work at it.

So, if the goal is to run many, many races at "good" times, then that's understood by all of us and you've got tons of support. But, if your goal is to go out there and run what you keep telling us you have in you, then stop for a little while, train, and then do it, cause I know you can.

Dane said...


I didn't get a specified time in each of the past few races I have run. Runners always have higher faster goals for themselves. The clock is always their enemy. But I was happy with my 8k time (even though I didn't break 30 minutes) and I was happy with my timei n Leesburg. But if someone asks me what I was shooting for and presses me for honesty I will tell them times I wished I had hit regardless of all circumstances. If that is lamenting, so be it.

And when my goal becomes to hit certain times in a specific race and to hit the time that I think I have in me, then I will settle down, find a distance and train for it.

La Maratonista (AKA Jenni) said...

Keep doing whatever it is you need to do to keep running fun and interesting for you. If I always did what was "best" for my performance or always followed my coaches' advice, I think I would be bored out of my mind, and I think you would agree. So do what makes YOU happy and what keeps YOU motivated. Who cares what anyone else thinks?

Yellow Scuba said...

I think a lot of people take everything you say a bit more literally than you would probably like them to. Those who have the benefit of hearing you explain your position on things in more depth, may realize that just because you have a stated goal, it does not mean that you will a) being soley focused on that one goal via your training, or b) be crushed when you don't hit it.

I think you are always going to want to do better than you did, no matter what the results are. Does that mean you are never satisfied? Hell no, it simply means you will always desire to improve. I see nothing wrong with that. I agree with Jenni completely - you need to do WHATEVER makes you happiest in your running. If it is to shoot for (and not necessarily expect, because you are realistic about training requirements) a PR in every distance every time, go for it. Most of us whine a bit when we don't hit a goal, but it doesn't mean that you haven't found some satisfaction in the results that you wound up with.

Just run, Dane. Do what you like to do 'cause you said so! Let everyone else train the way they want, too, and all will be happy!

1L said...

Not so sure who said what, and I don't care, but frankly in the end it is all about fun and doing what you enjoy. Run whatever distances you want Dane as only you have to be satisfied with the outcome. You keep running, and I'll keep reading and cheering.

Zon Fiar said...

Fortunately: You gained a lot of press during Fiddy2 and a ton of people now follow your blog. Unfortunately: With increased traffic there are a ton of people who will "call" you on stuff or decide they know how to do everything better than you, and they will be sure to tell you. Critics are always going to be there for someone in the public eye, which you are from Fiddy2.

Personally, I enjoy reading your blog and following your progress. Keep on truckin' and shooting for those PRs. The critics will be sure to "call" you on it, but that doesn't change what you are accompishing!

dave-o said...

This whole thread seems quite familiar...

It seems that some of the confusion or controversy or whatever you want to call it comes from the use of the word "goal." To me, and it appears to others as well, a "goal" is something you strive to achieve. If you have a goal to run a race at a certain pace, you would train in a specific way to attain that goal.

So when someone sees that you have stated your "goal" is to run a 2:49 marathon in September, the natural reaction is to think "why the hell is he running 50k's and 1 mile races and 20k every single weekend." I know that's my reaction. As you've admitted, racing as much as you do isn't the best way to take 10 minutes off your marathon PR.

But this is a moot point. You've made it more than clear in this post that your "goal" is to run as many diverse races and distances as possible and see what happens. If you PR, great. If not, you'll move onto the next race. While not everyone may agree with this approach to running, it's your own personal choice. As long as you enjoy the racing, that's all that matters.

Dave said...

Well, I can understand his point. I think many people, not just runners, approach things much in the way that he is suggesting that you do...focus on one thing you can be very good at. But, that isn't the only way to go about accomplishing goals, of course. For example, I could work really hard and advance my career and claim success when I've reached some income level or been promoted to a certain point or I could balance work with my family and my running and all the other things I want to be "good" at. While running is a cheesy metaphor for life, this difference in viewpoint between you and your friend is a good example of how different people approach things and that no single approach is invalid. Well, other than not trying very hard at anything you do, that is.

And, given your age, I still think you have PLENTY of time to run a 2:45 if that is something you want to do.

Karsten said...

Hmm... The sort of criticism you were getting, Dane, sounds a lot like comments I have received from a local runner whose name rhymes with Lax Mockwood. :)

Dane said...

Lax seems to get around, Karsten!