They said it shouldn’t be done

There’s an excel­lent train­ing pro­gram for begin­ning run­ners called Couch-to-5K. It takes peo­ple from zero to run­ning a 5K race in nine weeks. It builds con­fi­dence and form with­out much risk of injury and count­less peo­ple have used it or some vari­ant to get their run­ning legs. I’ve been on the couch for some time, but as I’ve pre­vi­ous­ly described, 5K and short­er dis­tances are drea­ry for me. It’s the time I need to get warmed up so that I can start to run com­fort­ably. So for me, that would be nine weeks of negatve rein­force­ment — not the sort of thing that keeps me motivated.

I’ve seen faster vari­ants on this theme. There’s a six-week ver­sion and a ten-week couch-to-10K pro­gram out there.

Me? I’m going for broke. Hit­ting the road and push­ing my lim­its because that’s what’s fun. I may be risk­ing injury but I’ve now done couch to 15K in one week. The con­ces­sions I’m mak­ing to safe­ty and san­i­ty are: I’m not going fast, and I’m not heel­strik­ing. Not going fast means I’m fol­low­ing LSD: long, slow dis­tance. So I’m not giv­ing my body any sud­den jolts, just increas­ing the load and main­tain­ing that for a while. If some­thing begins to hurt I can adjust or rest or both. I have always found that my body has a tremen­dous capac­i­ty to recov­er. When I get tired I can get back on track if I just stop for a short while. It does­n’t take long for me to feel like I’m at 100% again.


Today I noticed that at about the three mile mark. I stopped to take a pic­ture, snapped a few shots, and was on my way again. Total time stopped: less than 90 sec­onds. And when I start­ed up, my legs felt fresh. There was none of the resis­tance or dis­com­fort which I had on the way out to the end of the pier. In fact my legs — and the rest of me to boot — felt bet­ter than at the begin­ning of the run because they were warmed up. So note to self: don’t run past aid sta­tions, grab­bing water and gulp­ing as much down as pos­si­ble. Stop and savor the water for a minute. OK, maybe 30 seconds.

The sec­ond thing that I believe is pre­vent­ing what might oth­er­wise be injury is the fore­foot strike rather than hit­ting the pave­ment with my heel. I’m not wear­ing rac­ing flats but the Kin­varas are mar­ket­ed to «min­i­mal­ist» run­ners with a thin sole and a heel only slight­ly high­er than the front of the shoe. I haven’t done any bare­foot run­ning recent­ly but I no longer occa­sion­al­ly use the thick-soled Saucony Omnis except for walk­ing. I run in the Kin­varas and I run on the balls of my feet, not on my heels. A few years ago I stopped run­ning because it was too hard on my knees. I was wait­ing for my weight to come back down below 190 pounds to run again. Well, I’m still sig­nif­i­cant­ly over 190 but by aban­don­ing the heel strike I’m run­ning with­out knee trou­bles. At least I have so far.

Final­ly, I refuse to believe that I can’t do this with­out evi­dence that I can’t do it. All the run­ning lit­er­a­ture gives the safe advice: start with short runs and work up slow­ly, not adding more than a few per­cent to one’s mileage each week. I do appre­ci­ate the cau­tion and I real­ly don’t want to be injured. But I want to enjoy run­ning, and what I enjoy is putting in miles. Doing so slow­ly is a lit­tle embar­rass­ing, but not as embar­rass­ing as not doing it, and I feel bet­ter after nine miles than I do after three. The human body, even mine, is amaz­ing­ly adapt­able. It may be safer to advise peo­ple to run less, but I can’t let that sound like telling me there are things I can’t do.

This body isn’t get­ting any younger, it’s true. But I refuse to sell it short by lis­ten­ing to what oth­er peo­ple say it ought not do. If I’m doing too much, it will tell me so. I expect tomor­row I’ll be pret­ty sore and I have to remain open to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that in a few days I’ll be writ­ing that I should not have done nine miles. Even then, it will be because my body gave me feed­back. That sounds a lot bet­ter to me than cut­ting back miles because it’s safe advice.

Bay Bridge and Embarcadero