Six Things Saturday #IV – Running in the Land of Reality

Never Going to Burn Off Crazy

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Another week has come and gone, and there is no end to the cold weather … or the great running articles. Actually what I am talking about this week is a combination of new and old – some new things combined with a couple of drafts I’ve had sitting around since last year that I have stripped down. Do you ever do that? So let’s get right to it!

1. Dealing with Our Natural Limitations As Runners

I already mentioned the excellent posts by Amanda and Harold in my Tuesday post this week, but there is a quote that has stuck with me:

it will not change who I am and the limitations that I have as a runner.

What he was talking about was contrasting the reality of our own physical strengths and weaknesses with the blogs that seem to promote the idea that with the right food, right workout plan, right book, playlist or whatever we can suddenly become an elite runner.

So many runners get involved with the sport with dreams of running a marathon or competing to qualify for the Boston Marathon or some other lofty goal – then grab on to a plan they read somewhere and go gangbusters, and eventually run into the reality of their own potential. Maybe they are not overly fast, maybe long distances are not their forte, or perhaps they are able to reach their potential.

But wherever they land, it is based on based on their ability rather than some blog post or ‘essential tip’ from RW or Competitor or Greatist. And as we age, our body eventually reaches a point of decline. Those are all realities … and while finding the right online resource or hooking up with a coach can help maximize our potential or minimize certain negative impacts, it cannot change our physical reality.

2. Another Runner Killed Tragedy

Any time I read about the death of anyone, it is tragic – there is never a right time, a right place, any way to prepare. But I will admit that there are some cases – children and young parents in particular – that really strike a chord. Also, with how much I run and how often I am on the roads when cars go by and I see people distracted, speeding being aggressive or whatever … every time I hear about a runner being killed, it feels like a part of my extended family has been lost.

So when I read this post at Jessica’s blog about how a 31-year old single mother of two was struck and killed last week … it was very saddening. There is also a fund set up for the daughters which has nearly $90,000 of support already. It is unclear the status of the father of the girls.

It is yet another tragic reminder of (a) how important it is to maximize your safety when running and (b) there is absolutely no way to be ‘risk free’.

Today is a ‘Run for Jaime’, so if you DO go out today, post about it on Twitter using #runforjaime

3. Rotating Shoes Lowers Risk of Injury

One of the drafts I have had sitting around since I started the blog was about a NIH study that noted how rotating running shoes could reduce the risk of injury. The report, titled Can parallel use of different running shoes decrease running-related injury risk?, was the first of its kind and noted that (statistical elements removed):

The adjusted Cox regression analysis revealed that the parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was a protective factor , while previous injury was a risk factor. Additionally, increased mean session distance and increased weekly volume of other sports were associated with lower RRI risk.

So what that tells us is that rotating shoes lowers risk of injury, whereas previous injury raises the risk. Also interesting is that running MORE is correlated with lower risk, as is more general sports activity. You can also read coverage of this study at Runner’s World.

This week at RunBlogger, Pete linked to a blog post at Running Research Junkie that covered a new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I will use the same quote as Pete:

“This was a prospective cohort study in which the runners that were recruited recorded training related data. They compared the training data between the group that got an injury and the group that did not.

What they found was:

those that ran more than 2hrs a week were at a lower risk for injury
parallel use of more than one pair of running shoes was protective
the week-to-week absolute change in distance was protective
a previous injury was a risk factor (which pretty much every study has also shown)
I don’t have much of a critique of the study as what we know is just based on the abstract above, but nothing jumps out at me at this stage as being an issue.”

The researchers in both studies concluded that different shoes distribute the impact forces of running differently, which then lessens focused strain on any particular area.

So what do you think? Do you rotate shoes? I have never been good about this, but have known for a while that it is a good idea … but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

4. Tapering Pros and ? Cons ?

It wasn’t until just before my first half-marathon that I’d even HEARD of tapering, let alone done it! What IS tapering? It is a reduction in activity level leading up to an event such as a marathon, with the goal of getting the body to the best possible state to run a race.

Most people have some sort of training plan for a marathon or half-marathon that involves a build-up of weekly mileage and a change in your diet to better fuel your workouts and recovery periods. Recovery was another thing I never really knew about – that it was AFTER the workout your body built the muscle based on your activity. Which is why the importance of ‘recovery foods’ is touted so often.

Over the last two years I have learned that while training we are building up fatigue levels, to the point where many experts say you are better off running two semi-long 2-hour runs on consecutive days than an extra-long single day run because of how the body deals with the chronic fatigue and recovery.

So with week after week of constantly increasing mileage, you are continuing to create fatigue in your muscles but not giving them time to fully recover. This can only continue for so long until you either plateau or hurt yourself. This is where tapering comes into play!

You can find loads of resources about the benefits of tapering such as at, Competitor and MapMyFitness.

So I was surprised to read some posts on blogs proclaiming that tapering was useless or even bad. It didn’t make sense – until I looked and saw they were all one-person anecdotes based on a single race (I got a PR without tapering … therefore tapering is bad; or I had a crappy race … tapering is bad). The general advice is that – yes, you should taper if you have put in the considerable effort and mileage of most training plans (>30 miles/week for marathon training).

During taper we are looking at a compromise between glycogen storage/fresh nervous system (benefits of tapering), and the loss of aerobic fitness (drawbacks of tapering). For those preparing for a marathon using a typical training plan, tapering for two weeks before the race will provide a clear benefit. For somebody who does NOT run a whole lot of mileage tapering could cause enough of a drop of aerobic fitness that it is not compensated in other areas.

And that distinction makes sense – because like all things there is no absolute truth, and since athletes heading into a half or full marathon come from an incredible range of training programs, it is impossible for a one-size fits all solution to work. In fact, Greg McMillan had an article several years ago talking about ‘peaking’ rather than tapering, which talked about NOT reducing the number of days you run but dropping your volume. Other articles talk about how over-tapering (7 days no running or any sort of exercise) can leave you feeling leg-heavy and rubbery, and under-tapering can have you feeling fresh at the start but quickly fatigue over the first half of the race.

So what is YOUR tapering strategy?

5. Weight and Health

One of the more surprising recent findings in health studies is that the conventional wisdom of being overweight putting us at increased health risks might not be true at all, as summarized at Greatist:

Perfect health is a complete myth. We all exist on a spectrum from the most to least healthy among us, and these designations are affected by a huge range of factors, from genetics, to nutrition, to fitness, to socioeconomics. There is no conclusive proof that simply being overweight means that a person’s health is in trouble.

I’m going to be honest – I think the article is pretty lousy, meandering (I’m one to talk) and unfocused. The biggest criticism is of the use of BMI as a singular health metric, and really the entire thing could be replaced with a recommendation to ditch BMI and “Do you eat well? Do you exercise regularly? These questions are more important than the number on the scale, which is sometimes nothing more than a distraction.”

A few other cool health-related reads? There is one over at Greatist with 89 ‘swaps’ that could change your life. Here is one I keep saying I am going to do … eventually (should be a 2014 goal for me):

14. Foam rolling for static stretching. Need to get the knots out? Try using a foam roller instead of sitting and stretching to the toes. It’s almost like a personal massage.

Also at Greatist there is an article about 5 reasons to see a doctor even if you are healthy. This is something I STRONGLY recommend – you might be in your 20s and great health now, but if you don’t know how your numbers tend to run, you will have no basis for comparison later on … and since ‘normal’ is a fairly broad range, you DO want to know your numbers:

Feeling indestructible can lead young adults to overlook important components of health and wellness. Taking the time up-front to build a health portfolio with a physician acts as a safety net and helps to ensure that patients are able to accrue the benefits of wellness across a lifetime.

Do you see your doctor regularly? If not, please make it a priority!

6. The ‘Forbidden’ Shirt

As I seem to say every week, I love all of the blogs I discover and what I learn from them. Last week there was a post at Tripping the Kenyans called The Forbidden Shirt, which talks about whether or not you should wear the shirt for a race AT that race.

I remember my first few races where we got shirts, and I would ALWAYS put on the race shirt. I thought along the same lines as the position noted in the article:

You may think I’m crazy and wondering “Why shouldn’t someone wear the shirt given to them specifically for that race?”

I looked at it this way: getting a shirt is part of the sign-up fee, getting a medal is for finishing. But what if a race gives shirts but no medals (I’ve had several of those)? I had never thought about that …

But as he notes, for veteran runners things are simpler and more clear-cut:

And this “forbidden shirt” rule is one that numerous veteran runners told me before my very first race.

It’s a commonly held belief amongst runners that wearing the shirt for a particular race when you actually run that race is bad luck.


Because you haven’t crossed the finish line yet. You haven’t earned it.

To do this is to risk offending the running gods and have them punish you with a bad finish time, runner’s trots or even the dreaded DNF.

So that is the thought – anything related to your current race needs to be earned by completing the race. It sort of makes sense, even if I think it is a little bit of an over-thought. From now on, you can be sure I won’t wear the ‘forbidden shirt’, but I will definitely be looking around to see who does!

Bonus. Running in Space

OK, a friend on Google+ forwarded this great post at Gizmodo, which highlighted a Tweet from the International Space Station:

Ran for ~1 orbit today. 12 miles on the treadmill while the station travelled more than 25,000 miles. I’ve now run around the world.

Happy Saturday! Did you find any cool running links to share?

13 thoughts on “Six Things Saturday #IV – Running in the Land of Reality

  1. Okay, now that I’m done laughing at the ecard, this is my favorite six things Saturday post yet. First, I taper for two weeks – the three week tape just makes me antsy, but I have to do it. The key to me is finding the balance between rest and food – I’m used to eating so much more during training that my diet has to be cut way back or I gain weight. Which is fine post race, but not sure much before a race.

    I’m also a strict believer in rotating running shoes. I’ll actually never wear the same shoe for two days in a row, so I own multiple shoes of the same model. I also have three different shoes for different runs and terrains – so I run in Trail shoes outside, different non-trail shoes for non-snowy outdoor runs and different shoes again for treadmill runs. To take this even further, I use two different sizes of the same shoe! I wear a smaller size for races/speedwork and a larger size for longer runs where I’m moving more slowly. I’m a case study of one, of course, so people should take this with a grain of salt, but I’ve found that this cuts back on my injuries and helps me stay motivated for each run. It also explains why I’m broke. Ha!

    • Very interesting points, Laura – and I am glad you like this one! I think your point about ‘finding the balance’ for tapering is critical. Rest too much or eat too much and you suffer … rest too little or eat too little, same thing.

      I think what you are saying about different size shoes makes sense based on some of what I have read about what happens to your feel especially on longer runs.

  2. The only reason I wouldn’t wear a race shirt is because I usually already have something picked out. I always like to train in what I am going to wear ahead of time so I know it works – but I know people who are superstitious about it (like my husband). He refuses to buy anything that says “finisher” on it until he has done the race 🙂

    • I hadn’t really thought about the ‘planned outfit’ but that makes sense – you can tell I am a bit ‘loose’ with that, for me a short-sleeve tech shirt is a short sleeve tech shirt 🙂 I also find it interesting how many normally logical ‘science people’ have irrational superstitions … it is all in what works for you, or what clears your mind to go forward, but I just find it interesting.

      Also totally get the limits on buying – I won’t buy gear for a race I didn’t run, or even for a year I didn’t do the race (even if the price is good).

  3. Great post as always.
    1. You got what I was trying to explain. We all have physical limits and despite what we (at least in the U.S.) are told “that we can do anything we set our minds to” and that is not always true. At some point we run up against those limits and can go no further. I agree that very often that we can go further than we believe we can, but there are limits to what we can do and that we have to accept that.
    2. It seems that this is happening more and more – unfortunately. I agree we have to do what we can to keep ourselves safe and use a lot of common sense when we are out running.
    3. Been rotating running shoes for many, many years. I was shown this back in the mid 80’s and being a shoe geek, it gave me a reason to have more than one or two pair of shoes going at the same time. Good for the body, bad for the budget :-).
    4. Tapering is a good thing and necessary to let your body heal up all those little niggles that we all get during a hard training cycle. What is said less is after a goal race, take another lighter mileage/intensity workout week or two or even three to let your body recover from that hard training cycle. It makes a difference.
    5. I dislike the medical establishment for many reasons, but it does not mean that I skip my annual physicals and at least listen to what my doctors have say. I do not take orders from doctors blindly, but I listen to their recommendations and then I make informed decisions regarding my health-care.
    6. Urban myth. This goes all the way back to when I first started running all those years ago and the old farts back then made the unofficial rule that you shouldn’t wear a race t-shirt before you earned the privilege of wearing. If you did you were tempting the running gods or showing you were a newb.

    Personally, I have worn race tshirts at the race, just to flaunt those old-timers and I don’t really worry too much about angering the running gods over a tshirt. I figure as long as I give my best (that I have that day), they really don’t give a damn about whether I am wearing that days race shirt or not. The only reason I wouldn’t/don’t wear a race tshirt during a race now is that I don’t like wearing things at races that I haven’t worn before – nipple chafe sucks and so does under arm or neck chafe.

    Good post to make us think.

    • Thanks so much for the reply Harold … it took me a bit to get through it all, and give it the attention it deserved!

      – So glad I got your meaning – in general we are always doing our own interpretation. And my basic context is ‘I may or may not ever qualify for Boston’, but there is no combination of diet, exercise and training plan that will have me breaking the tape at a major marathon. And I am perfectly fine with that … but I think too many – especially young runner/bloggers – have visions of going from not breaking 4 hours for a marathon to being a 2:30 finisher … not to be a dream-crusher, but probably not happening.

      – It is funny all the things I never knew by being a solo runner for so many years – from shoes to shirt superstitions to ‘running while female’ … crazy.

      – Also, I think that older generations were programmed to just trust everything from the doctor, whereas we learned to be an active participant in our health care. If we went blindly, so many things would be different.

      Thanks again!

  4. Pingback: Spill It Sunday ‘Protein’, Weekly Running Recap, and ‘Who Wore It Best’? | Running Around the Bend

  5. Ooh I just posted about that Greatist “OK to be overweight” article … oops! It was a thought-starter for sure!

    I’m crushed to see that news about another runner killed – so scary and sad, but doesn’t make me want to stop doing what I love. Just another reminder to be careful, be aware, and be grateful for every day.

    I just started rotating my shoes after reading about the benefits for years. I haven’t seen results but I’m still telling myself it’s working! I DO think tapering is key, although every race I try to convince myself I don’t need it. And NO to the forbidden shirt!

    • That article was definitely worth discussing, I think it is important to properly contextualize things as I’m sure people will be rubbing their bellies saying ‘see, I am more healthy than you’. Um, no. But as my doctor said to me last year on my physical ‘I think you are perfect … but so long as you keep up your running and healthy eating I would rather see you 10 pounds heavier than 10 pounds lighter’. It is a reminder that there is no physical benefit to being underweight … which is a dangerous reality in our community.

      Agree on the #RunForJaime tragedy – it is a reminder that we cannot stop tragedy, but we CAN maximize our own safety.

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