Friday, October 27, 2006

Galloway's Book on Running (Jeff Galloway)

A few weeks ago, I found myself awake at 5 am on a cold, dark morning in downtown San Jose with a bunch of other green T shirt-clad people who were volunteering for the San Jose Rock n' Roll Half-Marathon. (For those of you not familiar with a Rock n' Roll marathon, it is a marathon where a live band plays at each mile, and there's usually a big concert at the end.) Even though my friend Ashley and I had volunteered for the finish line portion of the race, we still had to be there by 5 am. Luckily, though, we ended up with an even better job. We were two of the three official timers for Meb Keflezghi, who won the silver medal back in Athens for the marathon. He was trying to set a new 10-mile record, so we stood at the 10-mile marker, stopwatches in hand, index fingers poised, and clicked the millisecond worth of time that his chest crossed our line. (Meb was not having the best day and he was the third elite runner to cross the 10-mile line, so he did not set a new record.)

Once our official job was over, we stood at the 10-mile marker and cheered on everyone who ran by, and it made for an inspiring day. There was a blind runner aided by a guide who ran directly in front of him, while they each held onto a pole in each hand. There was a woman with a prosthetic running leg, and her running partner was completing the race barefoot. There were old and young runners, runners in great shape and those who were really struggling. We cheered on friends, and after a couple hours of watching people stream by, we thought, you know, maybe we can do this, too.

I was never an athletic kid. At all. Jim has fond memories of his elementary school PE class, with juggling, roller skating, and hula hooping. I remember being picked last for softball, being hit again and again by a stiff gray foam dodgeball, and hanging on a rope I couldn't climb until they told me I could let go. But a couple years ago, I found myself in great shape (thanks to the Monkey Bar Gym in Madison, Wisconsin) and decided I wanted to run. I completed two 5 Ks, and even an 8 K, but then didn't run regularly after that.

But I learned something very valuable from some of the half-marathoners. You don't have to run the whole time. There's this wonderful formula called the "5-1" where you run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and then repeat until you finish the race. I had never heard of this before and had always thought of walking during running as giving up (whenever I stopped to walk I could never get up the energy to run again). Well, according to Jeff Galloway, one of the reasons that the 5-1 works is that you start taking the walk breaks before you're really tired, so you keep your endurance but you give yourself a breather and you work all your leg muscles, which helps from cramping or overuse. I find that the best part of the 5-1 is that 5 minutes seems doable. Running 3 more miles may not, but 5 minutes? I can do that.

In Galloway's Book on Running, the original edition coming out in 1987, Jeff Galloway presents what was probably at that time a fairly revolutionary program of running. Not only does he talk about the walk breaks (which he even recommends to elite runners, though with a less than a minute walk in between the runs), he also talks about how it can be better to run every other day than everyday.

In this book, I learned how much you need to run a week to progress toward a goal for a race or to keep weight off. He goes into the science behind what happens to your body when you run, how to be faster, how to find the right pair of shoes, how to prevent injury, and his wife talks about the differences between men running and women running. The best thing I learned from this book is that you only have to run 3 times a week (two 30-45 min runs and then one long run) to run a half-marathon or even a full marathon. And (even better), you should not run your long run fast when training. It should be slow. Galloway's book does give some advice to elite athletes, but I feel like his main audience is what he refers to as the "neighborhood runner," and he's all for people running throughout their lives (he gives plenty examples of people who start running very late in life and have great experiences).

And for those who are afraid running for 5 minutes at a time seems too long, don't worry. Galloway recommends that beginning runners start walking first, and running just a bit at a time (even as little as 30 seconds at a time) and then working up to more. When I first started running again a few weeks ago, I started with a 2-1 and worked up to the 5-1. I have to say, I've had a lot more fun running these past few weeks than I ever had before. I'm going to do my first-ever 10K on Thanksgiving morning, which really, is just a very good excuse to eat a lot of pie later in the day. And I am training for a half-marathon in February up in Golden Gate Park, and my goal isn't to finish fast, but just to finish.

Next book up: Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

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