Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Marathon Man

Lately I've been on an ultra-running podcast kick, listening to Science of Ultra, Ultra Runner Podcast and Training For Ultra. I've used insights from the interviews to tweak my running and eating, and I've been logging lessons learned.

My parents are in town for my Brother and Sister-in-Law's new addition, so I thought I'd use the opportunity to pick my Dad's brain about his running habits from back in the day. I knew my Dad ran marathons previously, but didn't know the details.

Turns out, he was a beast.

My Dad's first run was a 10k in Hornell, NY. From there, he moved up to marathons. The longest distance he covered at once was 30 miles on the Erie Canal towpath with a fellow running buddy.

What I found most impressive was my Dad's training. He run commuted to work, varying his route from a direct 4 miles to an indirect and hilly 7. He'd close out the day with a 4 mile run home. On the weekends he'd log a long run, usually 15 miles or so. That's about 60 miles a week. That's the volume I see mentioned on /r/ultrarunning to tackle ultra-marathons, something that wasn't in vogue at the time.

He'd start the day by checking his resting heart rate, using it as an indication of how recovered he was from the previous day's effort. If it was higher than usual, he'd cut down on the miles. This idea of listening to your body and being disciplined enough to do less is a bit of wisdom often noted in the podcasts above.

This past week, I clocked in runs at about 9:30/mile for 6 miles or so. When I'm running with consistency, I can typically get that number down to about 8:30/mile. My Dad's marathon PR was in the mid-to-low 3 hours. That means he was logging a 7 something per mile over 26 miles! Dam!

My Dad is all very humble about this. While run-commuting was (and still is! a sensible training strategy, my Dad had an additional reason for embracing it: at the time we were a one car family.

Looking back at my Dad's running, I realized there was another benefit to it all: he passed the habit on to me. He did so essentially through osmosis. He didn't sit me down and say: Son, I'd like to give you a gift that will benefit your physical and mental health, build your confidence, allow you to solve wicked problems and even help you meet your future wife (true story!). Nope, he just went for a run. I have visions of him stepping out the back door in running clothes in all possible weather conditions, day after day. It was only natural that at some point I'd join him and we'd run together. And to this day, I'm still hooked. Thanks Dad!

These days my Dad is no longer a runner; he quit to save his knees. But old habits die hard. He can still be found at the gym cranking out intervals on a spinning bike. He was telling me just the other day about a hacking-your-health online class he took that suggested he could dramatically reduce his time spent exercising and still get nearly the same benefit if he followed the course's suggestions. But why on Earth would want to do that? You'd give up the joy of pushing your body for an extended period of time. Spoken like a true marathoner!

Update: Pics, or it didn't happen, right? Here you go!

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