Days 9 & 10: Grit Over Gift

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“Passion, not talent, should determine how hard a runner trains. If you love running enough to want to find out how good you can be, even if you’re really not that good, then you should go for it.”

Have you finished a race disappointed by your finish time? Do you wonder what went wrong then end up blaming it on something that was out of your control like weather or the course? Could it be that maybe your training wasn’t really what it should be?

How much effort are really putting into your training? Are you putting in just enough to get by? Or do you push yourself to see what you are really capable of?

If you weren’t born with the “gift of running” are you tapping into your “grit” and putting in the effort to ignite what it takes to turn your ability into accomplishment?

Below is some recent (December 2017) info I found that is based around a marathon, but as with all things running, we can apply this to running of any distance. It’s all relative.

A recent study on the differences in training patterns between slower and faster marathon runners was published in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. Researchers from the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Science gathered comprehensive data on the training regimens of 97 recreational marathoners. To no one’s surprise, they found that faster runners trained a lot more than slower ones. The table below summarizes their findings.

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*Side note, just because you run 50 miles a week doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go right out and run a 3-3.5 hour marathon. It takes time to increase your speed if you’re starting from a 10-12 minute pace ability. But you can get there with time, patient and hard work. Again, it’s all relative.

Here’s my “quick story”.

  • First 5K – April 2011 – Guns N Hoses 5K – 38:32, 12:24/mile
  • First Half – February 2014 – Donna Half Marathon – 2:33:19, 11:42/mile
  • First Marathon – February 2015 – 26.2 with Donna Marathon – 4:38:56, 10:38/mile
  • Marathon PR – November 2017 – New York Marathon – 4:05:22, 9:21/mile

There was a lot of running, many races, and a lot of hard work put into these 6 years. I still have a lot of room for improvement and you know I like to practice what I preach, so I will continue to run lots of miles, lots of smart miles. And I hope to add a new marathon PR in the future. Might take a bit…and I think that’s kinda the fun part…but I will do it. 🙂

Time, Patience & Hard Work 🙂

Ok, back to the study. There are two ways to interpret the chart above. On one hand, it might be looked at as evidence that faster marathoners are faster because they train more. On the other hand, the same evidence might suggest that faster marathoners tend to train more because they are faster and believe in their ability, therefore they are more willing to put in the work.

I think both of these explanations are probably true. The more we train, the faster we get. But I think it’s also true that faster marathoners choose to train more because they are faster. Why, though?

Human nature? People tend to invest more time and effort in activities they feel they’re naturally good at. It doesn’t take long for a new runner to get some sense of his or her natural ability level. Runners who have a knack for it are prone to keep piling on the miles in pursuit of their goals, while those with average or below-average speed are more likely to decide that their ability level is not worthy of investing the time and effort into higher mileage.

Let’s start a discussion about the following: Less gifted runners hold a tacit belief that they do not deserve to train a lot.

Do you feel this statement rings true? Do you look at others running higher mileage and feel that you don’t deserve to train in a similar way? Let’s take the marathon for this example; most marathon training plans call for 40+ miles per week. Typically, slower marathon runners don’t hit these numbers. Maybe they will run 3-5 miles a couple times a week, then have their long run on the weekend, averaging about 20-30 miles a week. What do you think would happen if this runner started putting more time and effort into their training cycle? What if they ran more? What if they ran doubles? What if they put in an easy recovery run the day after their long run, logging more miles and getting their muscles moving again?

Of course, and I hope it goes without saying, that an increase in mileage should come on gradually, and the large majority of these miles should be done at an easy, comfortable pace. But what if? If your training schedule says, “run 8-10 miles” do you run 8 and call it a day, or do you put your mind to running the higher mileage? I think it says a lot about a runner when they choose to do a little more…

While we’re talking about higher mileage, we need to chat again about intensity. If you’re looking to increase your mileage, how fast should you be running?

There are two main schools of thought: the high-mileage school and the high-intensity school. Representatives of the high-mileage school believe runners should do most of their training at an easy pace–but lots of it. Representatives of the high-intensity school believe it’s better to run less but run hard. I’m sure you already know which school I gravitate too….but let’s look at a recent study.

This study looks at a 10K race (or close to a 10K), which reinforces the thought that the same type of training goes into every race, no matter the distance. AND they are training for a 10K over 5 months. Most runners would feel they are ready much sooner than 20 weeks for a 10K. Maybe we should take more time to train properly…just a thought that I had when ready this. 🙂

Some of the best studies on the effects of specific training practices in runners have been conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Madrid, Spain. And it so happens that a recent study by this team provides support for the philosophy that distance runners should do most of their training at an easy pace.

The team divided 10 high-level male runners into two groups. At the beginning of the study period, all 10 runners completed a 10.4-km time trial and their times were recorded. Over the next five months, the runners in the two groups trained identically except for one key difference. The members of one group did two threshold runs per week, while the members of the other group did just one. Their total training mileage, speed training schedules and strength training regimens were the same. The only difference was that the members of one group did more threshold running and less easy running than the members of the second group.

At the end of the study period, all 10 runners repeated the 10.4-km time trial. The members of the “threshold” group improved their time by 2:01, on average, while those in the “easy” group improved by 2:37. Statistical analyses revealed that such a large discrepancy was extremely unlikely to occur by chance. Therefore the researchers concluded that a training program in which 81 percent of running is easy, 10.5 percent is done at threshold pace, and 8.5 percent is done at speeds exceeding race pace is more effective than an equal-mileage program in which only 67 percent of running is easy, 24.5 percent is at threshold pace, and 8.5 is fast.

These results are very troubling for those who deem threshold training to be the holy grail of training for distance running. The runners in the “easy” group trained hard, and those in the “threshold” group arguably trained foolishly hard. We took a closer look at those numbers in the “threshold” training regimen: 24.5 percent of their weekly miles were run at threshold pace (plus another 8.5 at speed pace) for a total of 33% of runs done faster than an easy, comfortable pace. At the end of the training cycle, the runners who did more easy runs performed better on race day.

This study provides solid validation for the notion that a modest amount of threshold training goes a long way. The take-home lesson is this: You’ll get as much fitness as you can get from threshold training with one hard session per week. Adding a second threshold workout will not give you any extra fitness and may actually inhibit your fitness development by causing you to accumulate fatigue that you carry from one threshold workout to the next, so that you don’t perform as well as you should in these workouts and therefore get less benefit from them.

This study is broken down even more in the article, “Easy Does It: High Mileage or High Intensity?” and if you’re interested you can even see their full training schedule. But the takeaway is this, the 80/20 rule of training (80% at easy pace / 20% at threshold or speed work pace) is more effective than running faster more often.

If we put this together with running higher mileage, that means we get extra “faster running time” by increasing the average number of miles we run each week. So if you like to run fast, increasing your mileage will give you the option to run faster more. 🙂

If you’re running 20-30 miles a week, you get 4-6 miles of threshold or speed work. If you up your mileage to 40 times a week, you now get 8 miles of speed work or you can break that into 2 runs, one 4 mile threshold and one 4 mile of speed work. Up that again to 50 miles a week, and now you can safely run 10 miles at a faster pace each week. Everything else should be done at your easy, comfortable pace.


  • 20 miles/week = 16 miles easy + 4 miles of speed work
  • 30 miles/week = 24 miles easy + 6 miles of speed work (or 3 at threshold and 3 speed work)
  • 40 miles/week = 32 miles easy + 8 miles of speed work (or 2 faster workouts 4 at threshold and 4 speed work)
  • 50 miles/week = 40 miles easy + 10 miles of speed work (again, this can break down into 2 runs)

So, what does your training look like? Are you guilty of not pushing yourself, then being disappointed on race day? Are you passionate about your sport or is it just something you do for fun? Are you running for a time or are you running to finish? If it’s just for fun and you aren’t wanting to improve (that is ok!), or you aren’t concerned with a time and just want to finish (this is ok too!), then you may not need to run as many miles, just don’t be don’t be disappointed or blame your finish time on “something else” on race day…

If you want to get better, you have to put in the work. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a gazelle like figure running down the street. It doesn’t matter if running doesn’t come naturally to you. Choose to do a little more and see what happens! If you’re schedule says 8-10, choose 10.

Again, this principle applies to ALL running distances. If you are training for a 5K, you should be working towards running 4-6 miles as your long run before your race. Yes go PAST your race distance! If you are training for a half, you should be working up to running to 14 or 15 miles. This will give you SO much confidence and endurance going into your Half Marathon. If you’re training for a marathon…you should be working towards, or already running, 40+ miles a week, and for experienced runners, you should be pushing 50+ miles a week.

You have the GRIT even if God didn’t give you the GIFT. You just have to work a little harder for it. What will you do?

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Day 9 exercises: Leg Swings, Hip Hurdles and Lunge Matrix + Long Run + :60 Wall Sit + Legs up the Wall (5-15 minutes) + Rolling + 7 Key Stretches for Runners 

Day 10 exercises: Plank (:60) + Wall Sit (:60) + Active Recovery & Yoga

Homework: We are nearing the middle of the month already (crazy I know!) and this means we are getting closer and closer to the end of the year. Last year, I asked you for your 2017 goals, and half way through the year, you got a note from me reminding you about those goals. Let’s do it again. This weekend, I want you to start thinking about your goals for 2018. They can be whatever you want them to be. Write them down and add or change them over the next few days or week. Sometime this coming week, I will add a “2018 Goals” post in our Facebook group where you can list your 2018 goals. If you don’t want to share them with the whole group, you can send them to me in private messenger. Send me your address (if I don’t already have it) and I will be making a list of all #CoreCrew 2018 goals to keep for next year. Take your time and think about these.

Your goals should be:

  1. Motivating – Make sure your goals are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them.
  2. Specific – Clear and well defined
  3. Measurable – Include precise amounts, dates, etc…
  4. Attainable – Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence. Resist the urge to set goals that are too easy.
  5. Relevant – Goals should be relevant to the direction you want to take in life, career, fitness, family & health
  6. Time Bound – You goals must have a deadline. This means that you know when you can celebrate success.

Want to push yourself harder while staying safe and injury free? I’m here to chat and I would love to help you work towards and achieve your goals. Reach out to me and let’s talk about how you can safely put in the effort to ignite what it takes to turn your ability into accomplishment!

Final Thought:

“Passion, not talent, should determine how hard a runner trains. If you love running enough to want to find out how good you can be, even if you’re really not that good, then you should go for it.”

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