Musings of an Aging Middle Distance Runner (or Is there really a marathon on my bucket list?)

September and back to school always brings with it a desire to set goals for next year. Forget that I still have three (4,5,6??) more races in the calendar before the end of the year (including Spartan Beast World Championships and the MEC Ottawa Half Marathon).

Before setting new goals I always feel the need to determine if I achieved my current goals and assess whether a healthy dose of reality is needed when setting new ones. Looking back at Facebook from last year I see that my 2014 goals were:

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 9.56.31 AM

  • turned 50, ok that was a no brainer 😉
  • yoga teacher certification, done, teaching yoga regularly, super happy I did it and would recommend it to anyone
  • Spartan Beast – 3.5 hrs…almost…I ran the 21km obstacle trail run in 3:43, finished 78th out of 2000 and cut 30 mins off my time from last year…I am going to put this in the success column!!
  • Ottawa Marathon…the thought was that if I had to train to run for 4 hours to get ready for the Beast why not train for a marathon…and here is where the soul searching begins…

As I started my training earlier this year I very quickly realized what I already knew…

I am not a long distance runner!

Just this week I converted the marathon I had in my race calendar to a half…I chickened out. But what is the point of destroying my knees and legs to attain something unrealistic.

I have met and trained with a lot of really good distance runners, both road and trail. I have talked to many people that are training for their first marathon or half marathon and are working really hard to get there, serious life transformation and bucket list stuff!

But try as I might, putting in the distance to get ready for a marathon makes my body hurt in ways that is shouldn’t hurt. I want to run those distances but my body rebels.

It should also be noted that I am hyper-competitve. I stopped running triathlons when I was younger because my career in high-tech was taking off and I didn’t have 20 hours a week to train anymore. I knew my finish times would start to rise and I wasn’t willing to race if I couldn’t finish strong.

So even today, at 50, my thinking goes along the lines of…if I am going to run a marathon I don’t just want to finish it, I want to finish well!

I ran, climbed, jumped and crawled for 4 hours up and down a ski hill on muddy trails to complete the Spartan Beast but the thought of running 3+ hours on the road makes me cringe. I figure I have an excuse, two ACL surgeries behind me (soccer, both knees) but at the end of the day I really prefer to run fast for shorter distances.

This is not a new revelation to me either. I have been running, literally, my entire life. I have run fast 5km and 10km races (17mins and 35mins respectively) and gone under 60mins for 15km. I have run a 4:20 mile (sure I was 25 when I did it but that is beside the point).

After university I got into triathlons, seriously into triathlons, and had many successes at the Olympic distance races (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10 km run). The target time in those days was 2hrs for an Olympic distance race, I hit 2:01 at my peak, finishing 6th overall in a local Ottawa race in 1990 (a time that would have won the same race last year). Even in those days my distance was 10 or 15km, regardless of the amount of training I put in, I like the middle distance stuff better. In fact my PB at the 10km distance was in a triathlon.

After some serious soul searching this summer I have decided that my sweet spot is 15km, I figure training for that distance allows me to go up to a half marathon without killing myself and to put in the distance I need as a base for the speed work necessary to drop my 5 and 10k times down where I want them.

Cue the Ironman…hanging with all these distance guys (and gals) this summer the inevitable comments were heard…given I have done triathlons in the past, why don’t I do an IronMan? Seriously? I wasn’t interested in running an Ironman when I was young why would I start now? Distance running does seems to appeal to an older crowd so it is not a totally ridiculous comment, except…I hate long distance running 😉

But..the temptation is still there…ok how about a Half Ironman or as the cool kids are calling them these days an Ironman 70.3? Sure I just need to get my swimming back in form, get back on the bike and push my running where I wanted to push it anyway…

OK…Goals for 2015

  • Run a sub-40min 10km
  • Run a sub-60min 15km
  • Run a 1:20hr half marathon
  • Do an Ironman 70.3

The question that needs to be asked is whether these goals are attainable.

I have run that fast in the past, I am stronger than I was when I was 25. I have dropped close to 15lbs this summer, still not at my racing weight of 165 when I was 25 but you trade off strength for weight, so why not?

Another thing that I realized this summer is that training to get faster at distances that you are already running is totally different than training to peak at a distance you have never run before. Most amateur running programs are geared towards building your distances and endurance to peak at your target race, be it a 10km, half or a full marathon. I am looking at pushing my times down at a distance I am already running. Tempo runs, distance days and track work look different when your goal is to go faster each time you hit the street.

So, what is attainable?

Distance Fastest Current 2015 Goal
5km 17min 21min 19min
10km 35min 50min 39min
15km 58min 1:20hr 59min
21km 2hr (don’t ask) stay tuned 😉 1:20hr

Over the next days, weeks and months I plan to post my training techniques and results and we can see where we are next summer.

I am a big proponent of cross-training so that will be a central concept of the training this year. Working towards an Ironman 70.3 really gives me no choice but to cross-train. Back in the day I was working in high-tech and trying to fit in 20 training hours a week, now I own a gym. While I still work long hours to make the gym successful I can train at work and go back to my desk sweaty without seeming too far out of place!

I have ideas for posts on strength and flexibility as they relate to improving your running times. If I am going to do the Ironman 70.3 I will have to fit in swimming, running, biking, weight training, circuit training and yoga to get where I want to go. I will share what I learn, if it is useful I am glad.

OK, enough for now, need to think about the Spartan World Championship coming in 4 days.


Published by danlargo

Entrepreneur, Triathlete, Yogi, Geek 🇨🇦 🏊🏼 🚴🏼 🏃🏼 OD : 2:01 🏃🏼 🏃🏼 🏃🏼 10k : 35:20 🏋🏼 🏃🏼 🏃🏼 Ultra Beast Finisher

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