Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 21 Aug 2003 21:03:24 -0400

Marathon Week


(rerun from August 2000 RC)

As a frequent flier to marathons, I inevitably bump into megamarathoners. They fly anywhere and everywhere to add another race to their total.

In Edmonton last week, my path again crossed that of Peter Butler. He has traveled from his home in St. Paul to run "something over 400" marathons. On my last trip to Canada I met Wally Herman, who has marathoned more than 500 times.

They take after Sy Mah and Norm Frank in this quest. Mah's lifetime count of marathons, 524, was thought to be unbreakable until Frank broke it a few years ago.

At yet another Canadian marathon a few years ago I met Gordon Hartshorn. He had started his turn-of-the-century celebration early by trying to run marathons 200 weeks in a row by the year 2000 -- all while dealing with prostate cancer. The illness ended his streak at 74 weeks and took his life in 1998.

This piece remembers him. He inspired the thoughts herein.

When we last talked at the Canadian Rockies Marathon in Canmore, Alberta, I mentioned in passing my own longtime marathon-a-week habit. His eyes widened -- until I added, "... as a weekly total, that is."

My weeks line up much differently than Gordon's. He did little else but rest up and travel between races. This is how most megamarathoners do it.

I like to run too much to do it only a few days a week. And I'm not tough enough to go the weekend distances that Gordon did.

Only twice have I even run two marathons in as many weeks. Now I'm lucky to put in two a year. But I've long taken weekly marathons the easy way -- on the installment plan.

Miles don't count with me. I never check them, choosing instead to keep score by time periods.

For much of my running life I've totaled 3-1/2 to four hours a week. That's marathon time, more or less.

(It was more in the long-gone days when I routinely averaged eight-minute training miles. Today, while taking at least a minute longer to complete each mile, my total probably falls slightly under a marathon. But who's checking?)

My weekly running settled at marathon-like distance 20 years ago. Only the daily doses have changed since then, not the time-honored weekly total.

Marathon-a-week was what I ran in the gray days of nothing longer or shorter than a half-hour, never taking a day off and always totaling 3-1/2 hours. Marathon-a-week was still the total during my brief flirtation with running every other day for an hour at a time. Marathon-a-week was my total while running by three-day cycles -- long one day, faster the next and rest the third.

Marathon-a-week has been my practice since returning to more frequent running, usually six days a week. This total even holds steady on the rare occasions when I attempt a true marathon and the race itself is my only run that week.

Few of us are superpeople who can run a marathon every weekend. We don't have the legs or drive -- or the travel budget -- for it.

But the marathon spread across the full week is a nice substitute when the real thing is out of reach. Gordon Hartshorn would approve.

UPDATE. The length of my daily runs has gone up in the three years since writing this piece. But the combination of regular rest days and shorter long runs (and no true marathons since 2000) keep me running about a marathon a week -- the easy way.


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