Running My Way

This past weekend I came to a serious conclusion about my training and preparation for this season’s Obstacle racing. I will never be a long distance runner again. It’s not that I can’t do it or that my body isn’t able. I just don’t want to. I have the greatest respect for my friends that compete in marathons and ultra-endurance events. You guys are true athletes and models of physical efficiency and ability. Having said that though; I think you’re all bonkers.

In my day I could carry a loaded pack for thirty miles or more from sun-up to sundown. Of course I was being paid to do it. These days I still enjoy hiking with a pack and losing myself in the woods for a day. There’s a big difference though in walking 30 miles and running the same distance. Even carrying 75 pounds of gear on your back there’s still no comparison to the effort expended in a marathon. I just cannot wrap my mind around the thought process that carries one through such an ordeal especially on the road.

With that in mind I have decided to adopt a middle distance running program to prepare me for the season ahead. Most of the events I will be competing in will include no more than 10 miles of total running distance. I think this is a manageable number for even the beginning runner given a sufficient training time ahead of the event. Additionally most of these events will be obstacle races so that distance will be broken up into smaller increments interspaced with various strength based exercises and challenges.

I believe given my experience in the military and infantry that sustained long distance runs while great cardio and aerobic conditioners are a waste of time in this case. Now I can already hear many of my friends gasping out loud as I type this but that’s okay. There are many ways to arrive at the same destination and some may not be comfortable or familiar to you. That doesn’t mean they are wrong. It is a fact that starting this year the Army and Marines will both begin moving away from long distance running as part of their physical training regimen. After years of research they have opted to adopt an interval type program consisting of short but intense runs no more than 400m ending with strength based exercises. To be repeated for a certain period of time.

They feel that these routines will better reflect the realities of physical exertion they will face in combat and everyday life. Rarely is a soldier or Marine called on to bust out 26 miles at a time in combat but sprinting down the street, hoisting your wounded buddy to your shoulders and carrying him back to your lines is a real and constant scenario. It’s just more practical. Does this mean that our military is going to be less fit in the future and less capable? Not at all, they are simply going in another direction. Instead of hours of repetitive running they will engage in intense circuit and interval training to sustain an elevated heartbeat, improve cardiovascular efficiency, and muscular strength in a manner more reflective of the reality they work in.

Let me explain myself further. I am not interested in running a marathon anytime soon and with the afore-mentioned Zombie apocalypse not likely to happen this year I really don’t see myself needing to run that kind of distance. I have certain physical goals in my training. More specifically I’m trying to build a ripped muscular appearance. One that with few exceptions just is not compatible with marathon or extreme distance running. I also believe that the average man or woman trying to get in shape right now has no interest in running for hours a day to lose weight. They want a practical program they can do everyday within about an hour’s worth of time to lose weight build muscle and get fit. They need maximum impact for minimal time.

I will still be running. I believe running is a great tool overall but not the end all and be all of cardio conditioning. I also believe a reasonably fit person should be capable of completing a 5k without struggling. My regular running workouts though will consist of mile runs for time and no more. A three-mile exercise for example would be broken up into three sections each consisting of a mile run at speed followed by a five-minute rest. Then I will repeat again and again until my total distance is achieved. Once a week after a day of rest I will complete a long distance sustained run to evaluate my progress and total ability. I have been following this program now for two weeks and have seen my speed rise and time drop on my mile times and total distance. I also feel it is more realistic of the type of race I plan to do this year.

I think it is important to stress again that I am not training for a marathon. I am a middle distance athlete primarily focused on strength and physique not total cardio ability or distance. That kind of running just bores me to be blunt. I will be training for some long distance events as well but these will be more of an extended hike with weight and pauses for exercise and challenges. I know that my methods may not be in line with accepted practice and conventional wisdom. That’s fine though I am an unconventional person and seek results over popularity and tradition. As an athlete we must all find the program that works with us and meets our specific needs and goals. As long as we all can agree that it’s time to get off the couch and start building a better version of us then at least we can agree on that.

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