Long Runs, Training Plans, and Happy Meanders

I have a confession to make - I don't have a training plan.

These days, everybody has a training plan. Google 5K training plan and you'll get 'about 3.870,000 results.'  Add in 10K, half-marathon, marathon, beginner, expert, introductory trailrunning, and all the other options you have for running and I bet the number of plans could go over 10 million.

Or you can design your own plan. Jack Daniels in his Daniels Running Formula gives you all the tools to use, how to use them and, yes, includes sample plans. I used that back when I was building plans, aiming to qualify for Boston. When I ran ultras, I followed plans, modified a bit to incorporate Daniels (and everybody else's advice) regarding the specificity of training for a particular event. (Thou shalt not run short repeats on a track four times a week - no matter how studly thou looks - if training for a trail ultrarun!)

Weekends are usually reserved for long runs but I've always cheated, at least a little bit. The training plan might be "Long run, 8:30 pace, 23 miles, on Chipman Trail to Pullman and back on Old Moscow Highway." but I would change course and often speed. Sometimes I'd wimp out on the mileage, but not often. I was just as likely to tack on another mile or so, looking for the point where I crashed. Or as my friend Colin puts it, when it turns into real work.

A fair number of our long runs, back when I ran with a group, were only lightly scheduled. The start time was a little iffy. My wife would crew the long runs, stopping every couple of miles to hand out water bottles, Gatorade, and encouragement. She also kept track of the back of our small pack and provided pick-up services for those that got a little tuckered - pick-up included dogs that were pooped.

Breakfast followed, once complete with mimosas. Very nice long run day. Very unproductive after the run and the mimosas, though, so we skip that part and focus on food.

And every once in a while, we'd skip the whole planned long run idea. This was usual at my instigation when I got bored with all our usual routes. Instead, we'd just launch, giving my wife directions to the next intersection so she could find us. We might take turns calling out the next side street to duck down, or an alleyway. If the dogwoods were blossoming, we'd head up to Normal Hill in Lewiston, slide down through Pioneer Park, and drop down to the levy.

We didn't know where we were going, didn't care. We called it a meander. My kids called it going out to play. We might log two or three hours of running but, without mile markers or GPS watches, we didn't know how far we went.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the power of those meanders.

So today, I'm doing a long run. I'm meeting Colin and we're heading up to Four Corners on Moscow Mountain. From there, we'll launch and the idea is to run for about an hour and a half since he did a hard tempo run yesterday (Colin still uses plans and his is to qualify again for Boston after a few years of dialing back his running to handle life.) We have no idea which trails we're going to run, uphill or down, to the cedar grove or past the cabin.

We're just out for a happy meander. Colin calls it running, I call it playing, and we're both right.

Gotta go get my trail shoes now. Dirt awaits, and maybe a bear or a moose. Might get a chance to incorporate a hard interval, unplanned of course, into our day.

Run gently and have some fun out there.