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A holiday essay by a runner for his fellow runners

NOV 17, 2023

Minute 1: Are we too fond of long runs?

In Minute 2 of our last issue, we went against the grain with our investigation into the Run Less, Run Faster method. If you don’t recall, it’s all about throwing away your “junk miles” and making the most out of a few runs a week. Well, continuing that trend of minimalism, we’re asking the irreverent question: “Are long runs overrated?” For many of us, the Sunday long run is a tried and true tradition to build endurance. However, all that distance comes at a cost, and you can expect plenty of soreness and even a higher risk of injury after pounding the pavement for extended time frames. Some research indicates long runs produce diminishing returns when it comes to muscle and bone strength. Initially, your body responds and adapts rapidly to the stress of exercise, but the longer you go, the smaller your rate of growth becomes. Of course, for many distance runners, there is no substitute for the aerobic gains a long run can offer, but it's all about dialing in the right frequency. If you’ve been a once-a-week long runner for a while, consider dropping to one or two per month and see if it improves your recovery. We wouldn’t cut them out entirely, though, or you’ll miss out on these: “8 Undeniable Benefits of Long Runs.” Long runs are an opportunity to explore, feel accomplished, and build your confidence as an endurance athlete, just to name a few benefits.

Minute 2: In pursuit of the sub 3-hour marathon

Only about 4% of runners can break three hours in a marathon according to one recent survey. The sub-3:00 marathon is a benchmark for runners that we discussed in Minute 1 of this issue. Read that, and you’ll know where you’re going, but if you want to learn how to get there, check out: “How To Break The 3 Hour Marathon Pace Guide + Training Plan.” A typical marathon preparation involves about 4 to 6 months of training, with as much as 6 days of running a week. Of course, the specifics will vary depending on your personal stress tolerance, but expect it to be in that ballpark if you’ve got ambitious goals. Approaching training in phases can keep things dynamic and exciting. If you want to build the perfect training approach, consider using “The Six Phases of Marathon Training.” Begin by building an aerobic base and strengthening your bones and connective tissue with a period of frequent, slow mileage. The goal here isn’t to push yourself, but rather, allow your body to adapt to the workload that’s to come. Once your endurance is good to go, begin introducing workouts to push your lactate threshold and grow your speed over distance. Finally, taper off your mileage and focus on improving form and recovery. Here, you’ll want to do plenty of drills, strides, and other fine tuning workouts to ensure you show up on race day sharper than ever.

Minute 3: To juice, or not to juice...

We hope all our readers have managed to stay relatively healthy this cold and flu season. Nothing puts a damper on your running like having to take a week to get over a bug. That’s why we’re alway on the hunt for natural remedies that can give our bodies a fighting edge. With that in mind, we’re asking “Is Lemonade Good to Drink When You Have a Cold or Flu?” You’ve probably been told that when you’re sick, you need lots of fluids and vitamin C. That’s exactly what’s in a glass of lemonade, so it makes sense folks would recommend it as a cure-all, but is it really the best option? Probably not, since lemonade (and fruit juices in general) lack a lot of nutritional value compared to the original fruit. That means less electrolytes to keep you hydrated, and lower levels of vitamins that promote immune function. That’s just a few of the reasons why many nutritionists recommend whole fruits: “Here are 5 reasons why FRUITS are better than fruit juice.” Fruits have more dietary fiber, flavonoids, and other nutrients which keep you feeling full and vibrant. Among those nutrients is magnesium, which we spoke about in Minute 3 of our last issue. We already covered the fact that it can improve your sleep, but did you know “These Dietary Supplements Might Actually Help With Migraines?”

Minute 4: Instead of a weekly shoe review, an essay

Last week we shared an excellent question from Chris, one of our readers in New England. He wondered what he should do with all of the running shoes stacked up in his closet that he no longer used. Right on cue, our ace shoe reviewer, Brian Metzler, provides an answer as part of a very thoughtful essay this week. Instead of his normal shoe or gear review, Brian shares some nice perspectives on how runners may want to approach the holiday season. This isn’t advice about how to avoid overeating at Thanksgiving or counting the calories of eggnog, it’s more provocative, encouraging all of us to identify the “why” of our relationship with running. A few highlights of Brian’s essay are below, but for his full take, check it out on our website.

The fall marathon season is coming to a close and the holiday season is upon us, which means, no matter if we’re still glowing from running a race or just enjoying the change of season, we’ll all be facing a shift in energies over the next few weeks. With a sincere wish that the holiday season is warm and bright for you and your family members, here are five ways to approach the season as a runner.

1. Give Back

The holiday time is a great time to donate money, volunteer time or pass along running gear you no longer use. You can find opportunities in your local community for each of those or you can pick a national or global organization you believe in (like Wings of America or Shoes for Africa). For me, I’ll be donating a lot of pre-worn running shoes to One World Running, which delivers them to schools, running groups and non-profit organizations domestically and internationally. I will also be donating to a GoFundMe account aimed at offsetting the medical bills of the family of runner Aaron Kuen. A committed age-group runner, husband, father, veteran and respected accountant, Kuen was on his way to a personal best time in the California International Marathon last December, when he collapsed from a freak medical incident brought on by rhabdomyolysis and has been rehabilitating a brain injury ever since. He’s made great progress, but it’s been a difficult and expensive process for his wife and three young daughters.

2. Run a Turkey Trot

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving Day is the biggest running day of the year in the U.S. and it’s solely because of the quirky (but popular) concept of running turkey trot races. Why are turkey trots so quirky? They’re an odd mix of timing, a random collection of runners and non-runners and an integral part of a day filled with so many other big events. No one is peaking their training for a turkey trot, it’s just a random bout of jogging just for fun. However, a different level of competitiveness seems to emerge as family members challenge each other before the day begins a lethargic spiral into football and feasting.

3. Get Re-energized for 2024

If you’ve been running all year and chasing race goals for several months, now is a good time to back off a bit and give yourself some grace to relax and rest. I always find this time of the year the best time to start fine-tuning my running goals for the coming year. If you can carve out even an hour to earnestly think about what you’re inspired to do next year—specific races, running-related travel destinations, your first or next trail race—you can start to calmly put it in motion. But if you wait until late December or early January, there’s a good chance you’ll get caught up in the false hopes and the reactionary race registration spree tied to the “New Year, New You” drivel that will be strewn across magazine covers and your social media feed.

4. Find Crazy Shoe Deals

As much as there are a lot of great shoes about to be released for 2024, now is the time to gobble up your favorite shoes of 2023 at a discount. (You can probably even find some remaining 2022 models, if you can find your size.) I’m talking about both typical end-of-season discounts aimed at clearing out this year’s models to make room for the new ones, as well as super-discounted Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday deals. While I always suggest you shop at your local running store, Running Warehouse has started its Black Friday Week sale, and I just spied a pair of Saucony Peregrine 12 trail running shoes for $77.

5. Remember Your ‘Why’

We all run for different reasons, but sometimes we get carried away, right? Sometimes we ask too much of running, thinking it’s going to make us super fit, hyper lean or exceptionally fast. It's easy to get caught up in what we see on social media, and occasionally we get carried away with our individual racing goals—me included! But I know running is at the bedrock of who I am. I run for my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being because nothing else is as helpful keeping me balanced in each of those areas.

For Brian’s full perspective on the holiday season, check it out here.

Minute 5: Quick Intervals

  • Love comes from the heart, but we think it’s just as important to love your heart back. That’s why we’re deferring to “The experts: Cardiologists on 20 simple, successful steps to a healthy heart.” Included are tips on diet, sleep, stress management, that may not only improve athletic performance, but also lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

  • If you asked us what we love about modern GPS watches and fitness trackers, we could go on for pages. (And often do!) That being said, living the good life is all about finding harmony with your inner nature, says Plato. One runner/philosophy professor by the name of Sabrina Little weighed in on the subject, warning about the potential disconnect fitness trackers can create in your own experience. If your trackers have you feeling a bit like a wild animal in a cage, then you should read: “My GPS Watch and Me.”

  • At the risk of sounding like one of the bad guys in Star Wars, we’re here today to tell you that your anger is a good thing. Well, in certain situations, that is. It’s a bad idea to let your anger and emotions control you completely, but some athletes have found anger to be a powerful motivator for their workouts and competitions. Among them is Tom Brady. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the greatest competitors of all time. That’s why we were interested to hear his and others’ thoughts on the matter, which you can read in “The Power of Exercising Angry.”

  • Our fast friend and running music DJ, Rebecca Trachsel, is back this week with a new featured song: “Blame the Moon” by Cain Culto. As Rebecca writes, this one is totally different from my last few picks and that is on purpose as I don't want to get stuck in one genre for these weekly suggestions. Cain, born Andrew Estevan Padilla, began as a pastor making electronic Christian music. In 2020, they chose to take things in a new direction and used their music as a way to express themselves during this transition and to share their new perspective. “Blame the Moon” is a funky, pop groove that sinks right under the skin; starting with the upbeat percussion and then enhanced by Culto's eerie, falsetto vocals. They have a ton of new music in development and will undoubtedly be a well known name across many genres in 2024. In the meantime, get your funk on with all the gems that are out now. You can find it on Spotify here and on Apple Music here. #turnitup

Minute 6: Daily Inspiration

As rewarding as marathons can be, it’s important to remember we’re only human, and we’re always one stroke of bad luck away from having an accident. We found a video that’s a harrowing reminder of that fact. In the clip, a runner stumbles around until being caught by course marshals who attempt to bring him back to his senses. For the record, we’re inclined to disagree with the original poster’s description that the runner didn’t have “the right training.” The truth is, there are a lot of factors that can cause your race to go south. Maybe you didn’t do enough hydration in the leadup to the race, or the weather was far hotter than you expected. Whatever the cause, we hope this runner had a speedy recovery, and to all our readers, stay safe out there! Check out the video here.


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