For years, I had been addicted to LSD -- long, slow distances. On any given day, I would rather spend two hours running by myself than spend 20 minutes doing a track workout.
This type of training had carried me, not particularly fast, to the finish line of two marathons and an Ironman.
At the Ironman last year, I had over four hours to think as I plodded through the 26.2-mile run, and I realized something needed to change.
If I wanted to run faster on race day, I was going to have to run faster in my training. Sure, I knew long runs were important, but I was missing the other half, and after years of denial, it was time to face the truth. I had to do hill workouts and track sessions.
I knew I couldn't do it alone -- I needed help. So when I returned home, I signed up with a local marathon training group. Unexpectedly, I found a few other things that had been missing from my training, and I hadn't even known it.
The core of any running group is the organized workouts. The running group I joined covered the two key workouts in any marathon training program -- the weekly track or hill session and the long run.
After joining the group, I found I instantly gained access to a wealth of running information. The coach set up a training schedule for me and made sure to check up on my assorted aches and pains so that I didn't get injured. The diverse group of runners I met were all willing to share their own running knowledge and experience.
Instead of dreading the weekly track workouts, I almost started to look forward to them. I enjoyed doing a good, hard workout in less than an hour. I also enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie within the group. We were all working toward the same goal -- to run our next race faster.
On the cold Saturday mornings when I would normally postpone a long run, I found myself getting up at 7 a.m. to meet the group. I looked forward to seeing the people I had gotten to know over the miles we had run together.
Not only was I doing the workouts I always knew I should (but could never seem to do on my own) but I was enjoying them as well, thanks to the support and encouragement from other runners in the group.
Keeping Up With the Crowd
Running with the group forced me to push myself and run faster than I would on my own. Most of the time, this was a good thing. But on the long runs, I started to burn out. Running at a pace that was slightly too fast for me in order to keep up with the group, I found that I would fade at the end of the longer runs and struggle to finish.
I realized I still needed to listen to my body the same way as when I did when I ran alone. I needed to slow down or take a break, even if that meant being dropped from the group, in order to finish my long runs.
After a few months, I've already seen positive results. I'm running faster in my training, and on race day. I haven't completely kicked the distance habit, but at least it's under control.