When my brother asked me to plan a half marathon training programme with two runs a week, I refused.
That training plan would flout conventional wisdom, which recommends a minimum of three runs a week, I lectured. Two weekly runs would not meet the mileage commitment required for a half marathon and would cause the long run to exceed 30 percent of weekly mileage.
Then he reasoned, “I don’t enjoy running more than twice a week.” The statement made me rethink the importance of common training guidelines. Why do we run, if not for the sheer pleasure of it?
So I crafted an eighteen-week programme based on two principles. First, the weekly mileage would increase gradually to minimize injury risk, and where the increase was moderate, the mileage remained the same for two weeks to ensure adaptation. He would report any aches and pains, so that I could monitor his fatigue level and adjust the programme accordingly. Second, the lack in quantity would be made up for in quality. He would run at a variety of paces: easy pace for weekly long runs, threshold pace for tempos (from fifth week onwards), and race pace (alternate week) in the last third of the long run. From his easy pace, I calculated the threshold and race paces using Jack Daniels’s running calculator.
Week after week, he checked off the workouts smoothly. His aim was to complete the half marathon in two hours and hopefully to break his personal best of 1:52. I was certain he would break his Personal Best; as for how much, that depends on how much he was willing to suffer during the race. Perhaps 1:50?
He ran 1:48. He was surprised that he could still break his PB in his thirties; I was surprised that running twice a week could yield that race performance and relieved that he escaped unscathed (I know that my body couldn’t pull off that kind of programme without injuries).
While I see conventional wisdom as safety guidelines to minimize injury risks and maximize the amount of running I can do, my brother sees it as an imposition on how he can enjoy running based on his schedule and interest. But behind our different attitudes lies a principle perhaps more fundamental than conventional wisdom: running is to be enjoyed.
Is conventional wisdom useful? I used to answer an absolute yes, but now I also say, to each our own.