Thursday, October 27, 2011

If It's Good Enough For Ed Whitlock...

If you're not familiar with Ed Whitlock, he's a now 80-year old Canadian distance runner who, at the age of 73, became the oldest person to run a sub-3 hour marathon (2:54:48). At 75, he ran a 3:08. Recently (at age 80) he clocked a 3:15 marathon. All of these are world records for his age group. Unbelievable stuff!

How does he train (or claim to train)? He runs 2-3 hours very slowly around a cemetery every day. He says his only true "speed work" comes in the form of frequent races. Due to an Achilles problem and arthritic knees, he avoids hills and speed in his training.

For the next few months, I'm going to adopt his approach...well, minus the 2-3 hour runs and the cemetery. I will be keeping ALL of my runs slow, 3-5 miles, focusing on a low heart rate. To a great extent, I've been doing that, but my competitive juices (and my impatience) have led me to sneak in some tempo running...or flat-out speed (a 6:42 mile I had no business running, sandwiched between a couple of slow miles three weeks ago), plus a few tempo-ish runs that got away from me. As I continue to rebuild from this injury (or "these" injuries, as my old knee injury is acting up again), I need to continue building a fitness base; increasing my capillary beds and cardiovascular fitness. I will also keep this mindset when I'm on the bike trainer twice per week. I was on the trainer twice this week, and both times I hammered more than I should have (and my knee said "ouch"). As for the pool, it'll be harder to hold back. Whenever I try to swim too slowly, I feel like I'm about to sink. At least a moderate effort in the pool won't hammer my heel and knee.

So, until the end of January 2012, my training will remain slow, but any racing (no longer than 5k) will be at tempo/threshold pace. Hey, if it's good enough for Ed, it's good enough for me. I'm sure my first couple of 5k's will be embarrassingly slow. I hope to run 1-2 of them per month next year.

A quick update on my daughter Natalie (who has some heel pain). She will be seeing her pediatrician on Monday, then a specialist (sports PT) on Wednesday. I'll post whatever we find out sometime next week.


  1. Congrats to your daughter on her first XC season! Perhaps she could modify her training as well (if the coach is cool w/ it....)

    I am a big believer now in the majority of runs being in lower heart rate ranges, however, cemeteries freak me out and I would never be able to run slow around one of those!

    Happy Haloween:)

  2. Good plan, Colin! Suggest you set a high speed alert on your Forerunner to audibly remind you should your competitive juices, endorphins or adrenaline get the better of you.

  3. I've been reading some about Ed Whitlock but I hadn't seen where his training runs were slow until now. That's exciting for me to hear because that's what I do too. I started running a little over 3 years ago at age 56 and just ran my 150th race yesterday. It was a PR half marathon for me at 1:31:57. I've gotten steadily faster over the 3 years by running slowly on most of my training runs. Some of the time I'll run fast on Tuesday (depending on whether I feel like it or not) but slow at least 80% of the time, then fast on race day. Right now my 5k times are under 21 minutes (usually around 6:30 to 6:45 pace) but I'll plod around doing 10- to 12-minute per mile training runs. It's all heart rate based and on easy days I just stay under 70% of my maximum heart rate and hard days and races I run at 85% or more of my maximum. It really works although it takes quite a bit of time to see the results (maybe a year or more). You can see the improvement in my race times here...