Those three words summed up the coaching philosophy of legendary Oregon coach Bill Bowerman, who, of course, was also the co-founder of Nike. One of his best runners ever was Kenny Moore, a two-time Olympian in the marathon (4th in 1972), who became even more famous for his writing. Moore’s Bowerman biography, Bowerman and The Men of Oregon, is as good as it gets when it comes to sports books and bios for that matter. An amazing excerpt can be can be found here . That article, which was published in Runner’s World, before the book came out, neatly sums up what Bowerman was like as a person and a coach and how different his training philosophy was at the time to most of the other coaches out there. The idea of alternating hard days with easy days was almost unheard of back then, but as Bowerman would ask his runners are you in this to do mindless labor, or to get better?
This year I’ve noticed that I need to focus more on the ‘recovery’ aspect of training than I have ever had to before. When I started running again five years ago at age 40, it was easy. I trained more and got better. I ran my best masters times in 2008 at age 43 on about 45-50 miles a week with a decent amount of intensity. Last year I upped the mileage to 60-70 a week and though I ran some really good races, I didn’t hit any masters PRs. I think in retrospect, the mileage on my easy days was too much, even though I ran it very slowly. This year has been up and down. I had a good winter, but then hit my first race in March feeling very flat. I rebounded with my two best races of the year so far in late March and early April, a 17:24 5K, followed by a 36:14 10K. After that I had a month with some bad stomach issues, which has thankfully gone away. I feel like I’m turning a corner again, but it’s only by doing almost nothing on my easy days. I’ve always been the sort of person that has wanted to work hard all the time but ultimately, competitive running is about performances so who cares what my training log looks like if my races are crap?
A lot of really good masters runners I know and have read about (including national record holders like Jim Sorensen and Rich Burns) take at least one day off a week and that’s something I’ve started to do. I have one more race this summer (July 4) before I go back into base training mode and get ready for some hopefully fast fall races and a strong performance at the club nationals XC race in Charlotte.