While working at the store the other night, I was visited one of our loyal customers, namely one Rich Marion. It was the first time I'd ever met one of the finest distance runners to come out of Templeton, but I did have some background information on him which I intended to have him expound upon. Thankfully, he obliged, and now I can share said information with the three of you out there reading this.
You see, for those of you unfamiliar with the now 40-something-year-old Mr. Marion, here's what I got. Back in the late 80s/early 90s he was one of the best distance runners to make his home in Massachusetts. His road times ranged from low 14's for 5K to 23:51 for 5 miles. Throw in a 2:21 marathon for good measure and you're looking at a pretty damn impressive running resume.
Now I had heard from my high school coach, Jim Gonyea, some tall tales about Mr. Marion and his training. "He doesn't know how to take it easy," is how Jim put it to me. "He set his 5-mile PR during a training run." For legitimacy's sake, Rich's 23:51 was run on the roads in Connecticut, but the preceding quote from old Mr. Gonyea pretty much exemplfies the point I'm trying to get it: this guy didn't mess around.
I also do know of a course record Mr. Marion holds, that being my town's 4th of July 2-mile Road Race record of 9:16. Rumor has it that Rich warmed up for the race by first running the course in 9:48, then coming back 10 minutes later to clock a 9:16. Not unbelievable, but impressive nonetheless.
Anyway, back to my chance encounter earlier this week with our aforementioned master's hero. After helping him find a new pair of lightweight trainers to pound out his miles in, I picked Mr. Marion's brain for some specifics regarding his training, and was rather surprised at what I gathered. He doesn't "pound out the miles" at all, so to speak, but believe me, he's not fooling around out there.
I'll preface the following summation of Rich's unorthodox training methods by saying the man works long hours in an office - has been for a number of years from what he tells me. He runs on his lunch hour - always has - typically 4 to 6 miles because frankly that's all he has time for. But get this, his typical 5-miler only takes him anywhere between 27 and 30 minutes.
"I try to run within a minute of my race pace," is how he desscribes his training approach. "That way when it's time to race, my body isn't surprised to run fast."
On the weekends is when Rich would run the bulk of his miles. Typically a longer run of 15 miles or so (longer if training for a marathon) and another of 8 miles, for a weekly total that usually averaged out in the mid-40's.
"Sometimes I was just wiped and had to take a day off," he said.
The longer run, surprisingly, was run quite slow. Typically he would slow the pace on those to 7 minutes a mile or so, and run for "two or three hours."
Not surprisingly, he ran a lot of his miles solo. When training for a marathon, his highest weeks would top out at 70 miles, but "over a 16-week period, most were between 40 and 60...I've never been a high mileage guy. When I was running 70, I might run closer to 6 minute pace when I wasn't doing a workout."
After a few years of low key running, Marion has been back at it of late as a master's runner for the BAA. He recently ran a course record in the Groton Town Forest XC races, as well as a 4:24 road mile in Marlboro. On December 31st, he'll be at the Millenium Mile in N.H., where he hopes to clock a time in the 4-teens.
"It's downhill and fast," he said. "I should be able to hit that time."
So what did I take from my conversation with Rich the other night? A lot of stuff, actually. To make it easy on myself and those of you who've made it this far though, here's the ever important short list:
1. Quality miles over quantity of miles. Do what you can, where you are, with the time you have. Simple as that. No excuses. (Editor's note: As brought to my attention by one Mark Driscoll, this not meant to be interpreted that I suddenly advocate low mileage training. I don't. As Malmo would say, I'm an advocate of right mileage training. Make the most of your mileage, whatever it may be.)
2. Emphasis on threshold type running. Even though Marion's overall mileage was low, most - if not all of it - was at a quick, but not killer pace. (Editor's note: Again, I am a NOT a sudden convert to low-mileage/higher intensity training), but do I think there's something to be said here for the importance of tempo running. Throw some easy recovery runs in there and some well-placed speed work and you've got yourself a recipe for success.
Unfortunately, that's all I've got time for tonight. Sorry for the above bit of rambling, but if I suddenly happen to remember anything I forgot to mention, I'll be sure to update in the very near future. Any questions the above text might generate, however, feel free to fire me a question at any time. Take it easy.
Quote of the day:
People who ran at that time were runners. They were weirdos... At that time, they were just a different breed.
- Patti Dillon on runners in the 70's