Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


The 100 mile week, redefined

Until a few years ago I could run up to 170K or 105 miles at the peak of marathon training no problem. As I approach my 57th birthday the realities of training in the second half of my sixth decade (other than slower times) have begun to appear. Pounding the pavement takes more out of me and I just can’t train like I used to. What to do?!  While I have been a lifelong commuter cyclist, I’m not too keen on training rides that take three times as long to get the same cardio effect as a run. Training takes enough time as it is.

Back in the day, younger at age 52

So this is where I am at now, with eight weeks before my target race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14th. I’m cautiously boosting my mileage. I should hit 102K for this week after logging 18 miles or 29K this morning. After my 5 mile run tomorrow the past week will look like this:

  • 13 miles ( with 2 x 10 minutes at threshold pace)
  • 6 miles easy
  • 7 miles easy
  • 8 miles with a ladder workout of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (minute) sections of near interval pace running
  • 6 easy
  • 18* steady
  • 5 very easy (tomorrow)
  • Total = 63 miles or 102.5 K

The * asterisk is to note that having devised a new and complicated route to merge my run with a friend’s 10 mile run.  I got home, measured my route and saw that I was short 1.5 miles. You’ll know by this comment that I’m an old-school runner who does not own a GPS watch. Thankfully, I had not cooled down much so I immediately headed out the door and did the missing mileage. I gave myself a little pat on the back for that. Had my husband greeted me with a latte, as he often does post-long run, I might not have been able to gather myself up to get the job done.

Looking ahead, the peak training weeks will be from August 27th to September 24th. From there I will begin a three-week taper. I am curious to see how much mileage I will be able to manage at the summit of my training – the 100 mile week redefined.

As for my goal time, I’m will race a 10K next Sunday, on slightly rested legs, which will help me gauge my fitness level. Naturally, I’m hoping to improve on my 2nd slowest time ever of 3:50 run at NYC last year, the slowest being the 4:10 I ran in my first marathon in 1981.

My results since age 50 are:

3:10:02 Detroit (2005) 1st in age-group

3:13 Chicago (2006) 1st in age-group

3:17 Boston (2007) 3rd in age-group

3:23 Boston (2008) 7th in age-group

3:42 California International Marathon (2010) 1st in age group CLICK HERE for full story

3:50 NYC (2011) Waahhh! This one really hurt bad and I was 29th in age-group. CLICK HERE for full story

I’m hoping I can improve on my 3:42 of two years ago and my most optimistic hope is to run close to 3:30. According to the McMillan running calculator the 21:04 5K I ran in the spring extrapolates to a 3:25 marathon but we all know that for the vast majority of us, it is really difficult to match our shorter distance race performances at  the marathon because of the mileage base required. Surviving marathon training, is a lot of what running a marathon is about.

One bright spot on the topic of aging is that I was able to match past performance levels (age-graded score) at 5K on fewer training miles, with the help of intense  speedwork and an indoor track season build-up to the 5K. But – as a 56 year old marathon runner, accustomed to running the longer path, I’m hoping that a shorter path might still do the trick.

To get to the finish line, you’ll have to try lots of different paths.
Amby Burfoot


Guest Blogger Chung-Yee on “Celebrating 40 On My Own Terms”

I celebrated my 40th birthday by running four marathons in a month. Why? I have always been into hero worship, particularly those who have survived great feats of endurance – Magellan, Shackleton and Dean Karnazes. Although I wish to follow Karnazes’ footsteps, I was not prepared to run 50 marathons in 50 days. However, the number four has been lucky for me and running four marathons in one month seemed like a worthy challenge. I even had a name for this endeavor – Four for Forty.  The four marathons would be: the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, the Toronto Marathon, the Detroit Marathon and the Niagara Marathon.

Both marathons in Toronto were excellent training runs and I was able to train for upcoming marathons in conditions that could only occur during races – high traffic water and gel stations, and dealing with ‘runners’ high’ at the beginning of races.

Four For Forty!

At the Detroit Marathon race expo, I told Dick Beardsley about my Four for Forty challenge.  Beardsley, along with running legend Alberto Salazar, participated in one of the greatest duels in marathon history – the 1982 Boston marathon – where they battled stride for stride for more than two hours with Salazar edging out at the end. This remarkable race was chronicled by John Brant’s book titled, Duel in the Sun. When I bought the book, Dick Beardsley personalized a message on the front cover.  He called me “The Marathon Queen”. That short message brought a huge smile to my face!

The Detroit Marathon was the closest to the spirit of a 40th birthday celebration. The start was preceded by best wishes from celebrities including Haile Gebrsehassie. Gee, what a treat! Even the world record holder wanted to be partake in my birthday celebration! My finishing time in Detroit was a spiritual sign that I was meant to pursue this challenge – achieving my personal best marathon time of 4 hours and 40 minutes during my Four for Forty challenge!

The Niagara marathon had its own set of “memorable moments”. How can I forget getting a police escort to the start line and having cups of water handed to me by bikers in Halloween costumes! But I received a remarkable gift during my run from Buffalo to Niagara Falls – a consciousness that I was becoming more confident in myself to pursue ambitious challenges that I had always dreamed of.

With each step, I was starting to believe that I always had the resources – aptitude and attitude – to pursue ambitious dreams, whether they be summiting majestic peaks, paddling temperamental coastlines or cooking a home-cooked meal. What this Four for Forty challenge made me realized was that with proper planning and risk management, I could follow the footsteps of my heroes, or even create my own footsteps. I can now take this trust in myself and use it to pursue other ambitious dreams on my life’s must-do list. When I crossed the finish line in the Niagara marathon, I felt blessed as I had become one of the heroes I always wanted to emulate.

So what did I get for my 40th birthday? Not a Porsche or a surprise party, not even new athletic gear.  I did get four marathon finisher’s medals, and a realization that I have become my own hero.