In 2017 I decided to mix up my running races. In 2016 I had a great season, but I realized I couldn’t keep training at that intensity as my number of kids went from 2 to 4. I would have to approach futures years a bit differently. Because of that, I took 2017 as a chance to experiment a bit with a few major changes.
I’ve found that these types of changes can often add fresh life into an old habit. They are familiar enough that it feels like comfortable but different enough that it feels fresh again. They make the future seem expansive rather than defined.
So here are a few of the things I tried to mix up my running in 2017:
1. Running A Trail Race – For Christmas 2016 my wife told me she’s sign me up for the Dipsea race, a long-running and unique race that takes place just north of San Francisco. This was my first time racing a real trail race, though I certainly ran offroad some in Cross Country through High School & College. I’ve generally gotten very good at running mathematically during road races – evenly pacing and monitoring my heart rate. I found the fact that sometimes I was running uphill for a whole mile and then downhill for another to be a bit hard to plan for, which made it interesting. It got me out of my head a bit and let me just focus on running as hard as I could. It felt like the old days before I knew so much about my body and I just liked to run.
I re-qualified for 2018’s race and intend to run it again. I’ll focus a bit more on training on some trails & hills ahead of the next race and since I’m a return runner, I won’t be so worried about getting lost while I’m on the course.
2. Running A Marathon on Three Days A Week Training – In 2017 I raced a great marathon off of 6-7 days a week of training. I might have been able to go a bit faster with another season of training like that, but really, what would another minute or two mean? I decided instead to see how fast I could go on half of the effort. The result was that more of my training miles were at a faster pace, I generally felt less worn down and my race was only 9 minutes slower.
Most recommendations I see about the long term benefits of exercise mention 3 days a week training as a plateau point, so I don’t want to drop much below that. The only place I see to cut back more is the length of each run. There is probably still a bit more room to drop my miles and increase the intensity.
You can read more about my 3 day a week training plan here and read a review of my 2017 marathon here.
3. Running A Stroller Race – 50% of my runs in 2017 involved my pushing a stroller. So it was only natural that eventually I would run a race with a stroller. Another dad I know invited me to one he was doing and I got to see what it was like racing with some extra baggage.
While it was a lot of fun, this isn’t something I would do every race. It really just ads a lot of other safety concerns and stresses to the day. That said, for some smaller races that are more family oriented and less competitive, this is a great way to add some flavor and keep things interesting.
4. Running A Race With My Kids – After years of watching me race, I finally let my kids get in on the action. While this wasn’t physically demanding for me, it was fun being on the coach, cheerleader and pacer instead of the racer for once.
Running with my kids let me get back to the roots of the sport a bit more. It wasn’t about heart rate, calories or cadence – it was about getting outside, pushing ourselves and doing our best to make some good memories.
2017 brought some fresh changes to my running. I’m extremely happy with the resulting enjoyment, even if I’m not as impressed with the resulting times. I intend to repeat all four of these new ways of training & racing in 2018. Stay tuned for results.