Saturday, January 1, 2011

Be Consistent With Consistency

"Don't expect a million dollar race with 10 cent training" - unknown

Hi guys - As we begin another new year, it is pouring dogs and cats here in Birmingham, spiced with lightning, thunder, and the spring-like Tornado and Flash Flood watches. Looks like my brand new Running Log will begin with a big fat zero. Oh well, good rest for the long run tomorrow. Hot coffee sure tastes better on a morning like this. Add to that an early morning English soccer game on ESPN2 and the morning paper, and 2011 is shaping up to be The Year of The Slug. Nah, that won't happen - I'm determined that this is The Year of the Semi-Comeback (can't be too committal).

I reflect back on this literally crummy year of running, thanks mainly to a couple of ankle joints that just don't want to bend forwards, backwards or sideways (which really makes trail running a blast). But, some tweaking (I word I hate, but it fits) here & there and there is improvement. Enough to make me hopeful to run a marathon soon and return to the trails on somewhat of a regular basis. As I look back, it seems unfathomable to think that running has been my constant companion for more than half my life.

In skimming my 30+ years of training logs, it's funny how I set practically all my PR's within a 3 year span in the mid-80's. Of course, I realize that I was 25 years younger then (Oh no, Say it ain't so, Joe!!), but other than THAT large elephant in the room, there was incredible consistency to my running. I used to work at Cooper Green Hospital in the Birmingham Medical Center, and EVERY lunchtime, I would head out the door and about a mile later, I would meet up with my best running buddy, Bill Tucker. Sometimes, it would be just the two of us, and sometimes we would be joined by up to 8 other guys along the route. We were the constants for many years. Each weekday, we would head out for an 8 mile run through Southside, punctuated with a balls-to-the-wall quarter mile finish that rivaled the finish of any race I ever ran. Exhausted, we would be bent over, panting, with hands-on-knees, thinking "why the heck did I do that?", while simultaneously saying "We'll do it again tomorrow". And that was EVERY day...except Thursdays, when we would do an 8 mile hill run along the side of Red Mountain that would literally wring the last bit of ever-loving starch out of our legs. The constant rising and dropping elevation would have us pushing, not wanting to show any sign of weakness to the others in our group while we plowed up and down the mountain course. Only the occasional, barely audible "crap" from one of us would indicate the screaming, burning fatigue. Rain, snow, heat, cold, didn't matter. Obviously, getting back to work on time didn't matter too much either!! Then came the weekend, when Bill & I would usually put in a 12 mile tempo run with about 10 other (much faster) runners, or head out for a 20 miler at least once a month. Looking back, it may have been a little excessive, but I loved running long distances and the PR's were there for the picking like apples from a tree. So, run we did.

The absolute key to training is consistency. If you're serious about doing a long distance event, you have to become dedicated to a training program. Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments. One of the things I love about marathon training (and coaching) is that this is probably the first event in terms of distance that you really have to plan for in terms of training. You can't just hop out of the sack one morning and decide to go 26.2 miles. How many macho, seemingly in-shape, near-plastered, college guys have almost met their maker due to the infamous Bar Bet "I can run that marathon tomorrow!" (Kind of a direct running parallel to the Redneck's famous last words "Here, hold my beer. Watch this!"). Your body has to undergo a physiological change so you don't crash, hit the wall, bonk, flame out, whatever you want to call it. There are multiple aspects of marathon training, but cut away the fancy Runner's World "100 tips to get you through the marathon" articles and it comes down to dedication, consistency, and discipline to a training program. I remember an article I once read where a reporter asked H. Lamar Hunt, then one of the richest men in America, how he acquired his riches. He said "First, you decide what you want. Then figure out what you're going to have to give up to get it. If you still want it, then go after it". In marathon training, it is a huge time commitment, you're constantly tired, you can't live on a diet of cinnamon rolls, hot fudge sundaes, and milk shakes, and all your non-running friends will avoid you because they are tired of listening to you talking about nothing other than running.

These days, I'm much slower, I only run 4 days a week because my wheels need the once avoided days off, and my mileage is less than half of what I used to do in my heyday. But I still love to run long distances (at least in my head), and most of the time, I show up on Sundays under the pretense that I'm somehow helping to teach you how to do this. But, you know what? I come out there for the camaraderie of all you guys and because you are my constants. If you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end. Oh, not the same numbers I had "back then", but as the country song says..."I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good as I'll ever be". Run long my friends.

As we screech into the New Year, I hope you all set your resolutions, or just plain goals, within a realistic distance. Some folks set several goals for the New Year, but I never understood this. I mean, if you have something you wish was better, why wait till January 1st to get your butt off the couch? Whether it's January 1st, or June 30th, reach for something that's just beyond that comfortable range, and be consistent with your plan. Hey, kinda like training for a long distance running event, huh?. Those of you training for Mercedes, we have...drum roll please...SIX weeks to go!! Holy Smoke!! Tomorrow, full marathoners do 15 miles and you halfers are doing 7. NEXT WEEK, we head back downtown for another 13 miler on the marathon course from Boutwell Auditorium. Had a huge crowd last time - hope so again.

By the way, for those of you looking for bigger & longer things, don't forget the Oak Mountain 50k Trail Run. Entries are available at:

Ok guys, that's it from the disappearing butt of 2010 and the emerging surprises of 2011. We have no idea what ups or downs we will have thrown at us. We can only control a handful of a million variables. If you can lace 'em up, let's go for a run and I'll be happy to see you all on the roads -AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Gretchen said...

happy happy new year Al!!

AL said...

Thanks Gretchen and a very happy New Year to you. Good luck at Disney - AL

Suman said...

Happy New Year!!! Run more with you in coming days!