Sixty to Go – It Doesn’t Have to be One Way

“The happiness of life… is made up of minute fractions–the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a gentle word, a heartfelt compliment.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Entry to the Appalachian Trail at Port Clinton. The beginning of a 1,000 feet climb.

Entry to the Appalachian Trail at Port Clinton. The beginning of a 1,000 feet climb.

Marathon training programs help runners prepare for one of the most grueling endurance races imaginable. Most of the programs are twelve to sixteen weeks in duration and are full of workouts that include tempo runs, intervals and long runs. Had it not been for the rigor and discipline of a marathon training program, it’s likely I never would have qualified for Boston.

Now I am older, wiser (?), and no longer obsessed with finishing times. At sixty, I find satisfaction and appreciation to simply to cross the finish line at the end of 26.2 miles. Last November I ran my best marathon in a decade, and I didn’t follow a training program. My preparation consisted mostly of cycling, including a century cycle race (100 miles) with a cumulative 7,000’ elevation climb. I trained with a pair of wild men cyclists on the road and my golden retriever on the trail. Experience has taught me that one size doesn’t fit all. In other words, it all doesn’t have to be one way.

AT - Sign & BellaThat gets me to this year; in particular this past week. My buddy Ed and I trekked forty-miles on the Appalachian Trail. Mid-afternoon on the second day we hit a 1,000’ climb carrying backpacks with roughly thirty-five pounds of gear. When I got to the top, I was wiped. I don’t remember being half as exhausted running the Hills of Newton in the Boston Marathon. In fact, I remember chest-bumping a bunch of young guys at the top of Heartbreak Hill.

AT - White BlazeAt the top of the mountain, bent over, hands on knees, and sweating bullets, I asked Ed, “How the hell do you train to hike the Appalachian Trail?” After an hour or so of debate, we concluded there is no training program that would prepare you to hike 2,200 miles. Six grueling months along unforgiving mountain trails requires physical  and psychological preparation that comes from more than just being in great shape, but also possessing self-confidence, focus and an iron will.

AT - SignsAge has a way of reminding you to appreciate good health and maintaining it for as long as you can. After spending the first four months of 2014 nursing a nagging hip injury I’m more conscious of my health than ever. The injury forced me to abandon my first ultra-marathon that I had registered for in January. Recently I found another ultra I plan to run in November.

One reader emailed me and asked, How do you train for an ultra? Run a shitload of miles?

I wrote back: No. A shitload and a half.

My plan? A 30K trail run in September, marathon in October, and the ultra in November.

Like I said, it all doesn’t have to be one way.AT - Flowers

 

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About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
This entry was posted in Health, Marathon, Running and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Sixty to Go – It Doesn’t Have to be One Way

  1. Wholeheartedly agree that it’s not necessary to have a plan!
    Or that not having a plan is sometimes the best plan…
    and why should we feel we have to be slave to a 2nd hand plan from somebody else anyhow!!
    Great words Mr JB, keep ’em coming.

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      I’m with you. Just need to live that totally active and invigorating life. I loved your Shelter from the Storm post. It reminded me of the AT hike I just finished. It doesn’t get any better than that – the outdoors, wilderness, open space. You keep ’em coming as well.
      jim

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  2. What an absolutely beautiful post on becoming more mature and staying in balance with the body and mind Jim. I’m honored to know you my friend and to learn from how you embrace life’s changes in such a positive way. You’re a great inspiration to us all. Many many thanks.

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  3. LB says:

    So Jim, was this your first time doing some hiking on the AT? Knowing your athleticism, I doubt it. Just curious to see what you thought, other than the fatigue!
    So you are signed up for another ultra! I’ll be following along with your shitload and a half of training 🙂

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    • Jim Brennan says:

      Hi LB. I started hiking the AT last year, and have been expanding the treks ever since. To me, the outdoors is invigorating and therapeutic, and physical exercise is my way of expression, so the AT is like a playground where I can exercise my body and mind, and then return refreshed. As far as the ultra goes, I find the best way for me to stay focused is to register for challenges well in advance, and then I’m locked in. It’s a tad daunting, but what the hell, I’ll just concentrate on that shitload and a half of miles.
      jim

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  4. Jim,
    I never follow an official plan. Maybe I should. My last marathon was my second fastest and I barely trained for it.
    Lots of hills, still not sure how I did it.
    Andy

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  5. runner500 says:

    Looks and sounds great

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