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Looking Back, Looking Forward

As a running nut, I have been known to be a little obsessed with my running stats, like miles, pace, etc.

Just a little.

As we age, we do actually slow down, although there can be a little variation in that, as I discovered last year (see below). Since slowing down is normal, I can't expect to run faster times in races, or even in certain workouts or on certain routes than I often run. So I try to find new ways of redefining "improvement." Some years, that has meant that I ran more days consecutively than before, or maybe I completed more workouts than in the past.

This past year I improved my running form significantly. Since I started coaching formally a few years ago, I have learned much about what defines good running form, and - most importantly - how to teach it. I decided to practice what I preach, and experimented on myself.

Wow.

Over the previous couple of years, my normal pace for a comfortable run would be somewhere between 8:00-8:30 per mile. After several months of working on my form, but not doing anything significant in terms of improving fitness, I now find myself running between 7:30-8:00 per mile on that same type of run. My racing speed has improved similarly - I ran a "turkey trot" race that I run every Thanksgiving and ran faster than I have over the past 12 years.

One significant thing I did in 2013 was try a type of race I had never tried, a 5000-meter race on a track. I've run dozens of 5k road and trail races, but I had never run a race longer than 4 laps on a track. The notion of running 12½ laps on a track was daunting, in part because I was certain I would lose count. (When I swim, I swim for time instead of lengths or laps because I lose track after only about two laps.) The experience was great. It was a hot day, so my time was not terrific, but it was a great experience to get out of my comfort zone to attempt this challenge. And it turned out the official actually lost count of the laps and I was the one to correct him! Bonus: since it was my first ever attempt at this type of race, it counts as an all-time PR!

Now that 2014 is underway, I'm starting to think about how I can "improve" this year. I could probably run more miles than in the past 10 years, although my all-time high is likely out of reach - I did that when I was much younger and when I wasn't doing any cycling or swimming. One thing I could probably do would be to run more miles in a single week than I ever have before. Even when I was training for marathons, my mileage wasn't all that high, so I'll have to look up my record for that. Having raced the 5000-meter track race last year, I think I might like to try the 10,000 - could I actually run 25 laps on a track? One track event that I'd love to try is the steeplechase. The only problem is that I would have to run it with the same barrier heights that all of the younger runners use (36 inches). At age groups starting with 60 years old and up, the standard barrier height is only 30 inches, so I will probably postpone that for 8 more years.

What are you going to try this year?


Marty Beene, Owner of Be The Runner, holds certifications from USA Track & Field (Level 2 Endurance Coach) and from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition and Senior Fitness Specialist).

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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