Running on Tilt

The Plan

London Olympics, 2012

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In high school, as the weekend drew near, a friend would ask, without fail, “What’s the plan?” I didn’t like the question one bit. I was first of all bothered by the presumption that the friend be included in whatever would take place. And planning undermined the joy of not worrying about planning, of simply gathering with whoever was up for hanging out and seeing what would happen. “What’s the plan?” was too controlling a question. I dreaded hearing it, which of course made it worse when it was asked again at the start of the following weekend.

One winter night the question popped like a zit. A group of us were in a car driving aimlessly. Squished in the backseat, the friend who needed to know the plan repeatedly asked where we were going and what we were doing. There were no answers, just muffled laughter and adolescent non-sequiturs. “Fine,” said the friend, “Just take me to Wendy’s and take me home!”

The request was obliged, and a solemn burger was eaten at Wendy’s that night. We then dropped off the friend at the end of his driveway, and he may or may not have given us the finger as he trudged over snowbanks and slipped on the ice towards the side door of his house.

I think of that episode from time to time when I hit the local Wendy’s, and I thought of it when I realized that despite what became a lasting aversion to planning, an answer to my own personal “What’s the plan?” struck me with unexpected clarity, and it has altered my approach to training.

When I have committed to marathons in the past, it has enforced a plan upon me, as I have no interest in running a marathon ill prepared. Without a marathon on the schedule this year, my motivation and training have slipped. I've enjoyed not running in extreme conditions, but a time comes when not improving becomes depressing. I needed a plan to address this. So I have decided to train for next summer’s London Olympics.

I have zero chance of competing in the Olympics, but I would like to be in great shape while watching them from my couch, and I’d like to set new P.R.s on the way. If I can run consistently from now until then, with workouts, long runs, and occasional races thrown in, I’m confident that I can improve dramatically and enjoy the ride. The baseline is forty miles a week, but I’d like to average more than that.

Unlike the marathon, the Olympics make for a loose endpoint that I shouldn't have to recover from, so I'd like to think my training will continue in earnest after that. A few goals I'd like to accomplish before the end of 2012 include a sub 4:40 mile, a 1:23 half marathon, which would automatically qualify me for the NYC Marathon, and a sub 3-hour marathon. Though I will be running the Fifth Avenue Mile next month, I'm already looking forward to beating whatever time I run next month when I run it again next year.

I’m two weeks into the plan, having logged 41 and 51 miles. I’ve attended a few workouts and have been getting spanked by runners I was beating last year when I was in marathon training. I’ve taken some chutes since then, and it’s time to start climbing the ladders.