We are now more than a generation removed form the first "mass participation" running boom, and well into the 2.0 version of the next. What Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, Joan Samuelson and Patti Catalano helped spark in the 1970s and early 1980s has led to what we see now: thousands of races, many of them with 5,000 to 10,000 participants and more.
News outlets in the early days were few, and included Runner's World, Runner and Running Times, as well as a handful of regional publications such as Racing South (now Running Journal) and New England Runner. Through it all we have learned—and unlearned—volumes of information about the sport we love. Trends, fads and the occasional universal truth have been disseminated for almost four decades. Today we sift through it all to dispel some of the least truthful nuggets of running rhetoric. These are the seven myths most commonly pushed by those not in the know.
More Mileage Leads to Burn Out and Injuries
For years I've read about the "dangers" of higher volume training. Burn out, chronic fatigue, joint pain and everything shy of bipolarism has been attributed to spending more time on the feet. The truth is quite the contrary. In my experience, and those of virtually every coach I've worked with, athletes who run less at a higher intensity experience burn out and overall fatigue on a much greater scale compared to long distance runners who consistently run moderate volume at a lesser intensity. Eight times out of 10, the distance runners tend to be healthier and more motivated. Remember the old Lydiard adage that it is the intensity which can fry an athlete, not the volume.
However, more is not always better; every athlete has his or her threshold for volume tolerance. Emerging research on older runners who have been running for decades actually shows that utilizing interval work more often and pairing it with alternative forms of exercise can be more effective than simply upping total running volume.
The Marathon Is the Ultimate Event to Target
These days, more and more training groups introduce the marathon as the first targeted goal event for new runners. In this coach's opinion, this is a great disservice not only to the athlete, but also to our sport. Allowing a runner, particularly one new to the sport, to dive into a marathon as the first targeted event often creates "one-and-done-bucket-list" types.