The Myth Of Magic
When I was routinely logging triple-digit totals, when it came to my planned schedule, I did so much shuffling, juggling and adjusting that I could have written a couple of paragraphs each week to accompany the log itself. A typical example was planning to do a medium-long run with a tempo portion at the end on Tuesday, a set of fast 400s on Thursday and a Sunday long run at a modest effort.
This was in January in New Hampshire, and what happened instead was that I found myself working late on Tuesday, necessitating pushing back the 13-miler to Wednesday morning. That put the kibosh on the Thursday intervals, and with a blizzard expected during the weekend, I decided to do the long run Friday morning and include a good portion of it at goal marathon pace. When the storm failed to materialize, this left Sunday open, and so, tired from but not ravaged by the Friday run, I did 8 x 400 instead of the 16 I had originally scheduled. While this generated an impressive enough week, it wasn’t what I had crafted in advance.
Other than general life mayhem and weather, the most common reason runners are apt to bag a hard session is basic fatigue, something naturally afflicts those pushing their personal mileage ceilings ever higher. Former mile world-record holder John Walker reportedly had no qualms about packing it when a speed session began inauspiciously and trying again the next day. 2:14 marathoner Nate Jenkins, whose training logs are intimidating in terms of both volume and intensity even by elite-runner standards, makes no pretense about this being his experience time and again.
“I’ve had a couple of blocks where I’ve hit everything as planned for a couple of weeks or even a month or two,” he says, “but that’s maybe three or four times in 10 years.”
Before Jenkins’ first marathon, he planned to do 15-20 hard sessions in a six-week period, not an unusual total. Instead, he says, a level of fatigue he didn’t plan on reduced this number to five workouts.