Wednesday, December 13, 2006


No, I'm not talking about the psychedelic, mind-altering drug from the 70s. I'm talking about the running philosophy of Arthur Lydiard, the running guru who, according to a blurb on his website: ". . .devised the principles of training now employed by leading coaches and athletes all around the world, in track and field and many other sporting spheres; he invented the simple exercise of jogging. . . ."

A better definition? LSD, long, slow distance. This is something I heard way back when I first started running. I kept hearing the term "LSD" from veterans and not only did I not have a clue what they were talking about, I didn't dare ask. Could it be possible that these WASPS were talking about getting high? It didn't seem likely.

But, if you ever run a long, slow distance, getting high is exactly what happens. High from the endorphins your body releases after extended exercise.

When I first started running, I had four young children, worked full time, and had such limited time for such a luxury that I trained fast, ran fast, and raced fast. It worked for me. Or so I thought. It worked fine for about 4 years, but any run over a 5k and I was not that successful. Not that I didn't try. Oh yes, I tried every distance except the marathon in my first 4 years of running. I was only successful at the 5k distance, however, because I couldn't adapt to the proven principle of LSD running. I didn't understand it. I didn't realize that running LONGER and SLOWER would actually make me FASTER.

Its not that I didn't run longer distances, but the training for me was tedious. It took a lot of time away from my family responsibilities, so I tended to hurry, no matter what the training distance was for a given day. And I have to say, I didn't enjoy it that much. I did enjoy the training, as it was a great stress relief and the endorphins did kick in. But the racing was stressful because I always blew up somewhere in the race and then was angry with myself for not doing better.

After I got to the point where I had accomplished every running distance and goal except the marathon, I knew it was time to change gears. My first marathon was in 1992. My training partner was a woman I worked with at the time, who was 14 years younger than me. We were perfectly matched on regular runs at lunch hour, where our distances were from 3-5 miles, but get us in a 5k and I beat her every time. Get us in anything longer than a 5k, and she beat me every time. So this marathon training we were attempting would be a learning experience for me--I had to learn to slow down at the beginning of the runs so I could last until the end with my friend.

Fast forward to the marathon and of course she still beat me, by 26 minutes. But it was the first one, no big deal. There was always the chance for more. So every other year for the next 6 years, I trained for and ran a marathon or an ultra. And the funny thing about the ultras? I actually ran better, per se, than I did the marathons. I took it easier, was more relaxed about my finishing time, and actually finished strong. Case in point.

Maybe that's when it finally sunk in about the LSD. Run slow to run fast. Slow and long. Look at Dean Karnazes, the ultrarunner who ran 50 marathons in 50 days. If you look at his non-A race marathons, his times were in the 4+ hour range. When he was here in Grand Rapids back in October, he ran 4:20 something. The next day, he ran the Chicago Marathon, finishing in the 3:20 (?) range. His last race of his 50 was the NYC marathon, where he ran under 3 hours. Does that prove something? I think it does.

So my goal then for continuing with my rehab training and on to next year will be to get back to that long, slow distance. I can see already, from the little I have been doing, that running longer has given me more strength and seems to be moving me along the road to full recovery faster than if I were sitting waiting for things to heal fully. Doing leg presses, when I first tried them when I started working out again, I was pushing myself to press 100 lb., but in the past 5 weeks, I have been able to add 20 more pounds, for 120 pounds. I believe that strength came from increasing my running time, if nothing else. Since I have become naturally slow, from injuries over the past few years, to aging, and now to injury again, I am hoping it is easy (my definition of easy means not collapsing!) and enjoyable. It might even happen without a full blown injury like I have had the past few years, other than the accident injuries. If I am truly going to do an IM within the next couple of years, or even a half like I plan to this year, I have to get back to that long slow run.

As my friend Tom Henson says, it always comes down to the run.

1 comment:

sharon said...

And that Vickie is where we are different. I don't like going short and fast - I think it hurts too much. I don't like to hurt myself. I'd much rather do a 5 mile run at a 10' pace than a 2 mile run at 9. I'd rather do a 1/2 ironman any day over a sprint tri. I think the sprints are so much harder. Going at lactate threshold for an hour is too painful. I personally find it much easier to go at a moderate pace for a longer period of time. Thus I have to force myself into doing "speed" workouts. I've found it's easier for me if I do them with someone else who will push me a bit. Misery loves company.