Sasquatch and The Low Milage Competitive Distance Runner
I recently went through my first running injury in over 20 years and both the doctor and physical therapist recommended that I reduce my training. I can’t blame them. Their job is to keep me healthy, my desire is to be competitive and those two goals occasionally come into conflict. Their recommendation: Reduce weekly mileage and take one or two days off each week from running. Other training is OK on off days, just not running. Considering I had stress fractures in my fibula and tibia, had to take off eight weeks from running and hit the pool for workouts, I was open to plans that would avoid a repeat of that scenario. I decided to research it. Could a Masters runner train with less mileage, taking one or two days off a week from running and replacing it with cross training?
Masters Runner = Over 40 years old
Competitive= Break 34:00 for 10K
Lower mileage= under 60 miles per week
Days off= 1 or more
So I asked around with competitive masters runners I personally know. All of them ran well over 60 miles per week and none took a day off. I posted on facebook running groups. Not one confirmed sighting. Two responses said they knew a masters runner capable of a sub 34 that ran below 60 per week. But no confirmed contact from those runners. I searched articles on Running Times and Competitor Magazine. All profiles of competitive Masters runners showed they ran high mileage and ran every day. None took regular days off every week. I even asked my Physical Therapist if he was aware of any masters runner who could break 34 for 10K and ran the plan he was recommending. Nope. But he said optimistically, “You could be the one who does it!” I bet if I asked Bill Pierce, author of “Run Less, Run Faster” he’d say I could do it too.
My coach, now 75 years old ran well under 34:00 as a masters runner and still trains at over 90 miles per week, running every day. Guess what his advice is?
Here’s how it stacks up:
My high mileage method: Used by at least a dozen confirmed runners as documented by magazines, coaches and personal conversations.
The lower mileage, 1 day a week off method: Two Sasquatch sightings. Those runners exist but there is no real proof, high resolution photographic evidence or confirmed footprints crossing a 10K finish line in under 34:00.
The real question for me is: Do I want to chase fast times or do I want to chase Sasquatch?
*One notable exception to the every day, high mileage rule: Very competitive Masters Milers almost all take days off. Training for that kind of speed does beat you up so recovery days appear to be more important for middle distance runners after age 40. Not coincidentally, I’m pretty sure that it was a 3,000 meter race on an indoor track that gave me my initial injury!