Mindless Moments: One Mile

February 15, 2012

Adapted from Paul Huddle's full article on Multisports.com, Mindless Moments - One Mile. Visit the article for full details on the training regime and Paul's thoughts on a simple, no frills One Mile Event.

Paul is the coach of World Champion Triathlete Spencer Smith, and Ironman Champion Chris Legh. Paul is one of triathlons most respected coaches and was on the first USAT coaches committee as well as having had the experience from Ironman wins at Japan and top 10 finishes at Hawaii.

Mindless Moments: One Mile

I’m training to run a Mile. I know. Anemic. Pathetic. Feeble. Who cares? I know. What kind of life changing experience am I going to get out of running a Mile? Who is going to be inspired by anyone running a Mile? Everyone can run a Mile. Hell, Oprah ran a marathon. One Mile. Please. I don’t care. I’m going to run a Mile as fast as I can and here’s why.

When I started all this nonsense I couldn’t imagine running a Mile without stopping. Then I saw a television show about the marathon narrated by Al Greenspan with Abebe Bikila winning in Rome – barefoot - on cobblestones. I knew I had to run a marathon.

My sister talked me into transforming my male teenage couch inspiration into reality. I started “training”. I ran a Mile – without stopping – in Converse High Tops. Hey, don’t laugh - those were athletic shoes in 1977. Anyway, I finally ran a Mile…straight. It was a big deal. A milestone. Yes, pun intended.

There were a lot of miles in between then and now but running one Mile has never been far from my consciousness and maybe yours too. Think about it. Country mile. 55-Miles Per Hour. Thousand mile stare. Three Mile Island. The Green Mile. Mile marker. Mile high. Mile high club. Eight Mile. The Miracle Mile. Going the extra Mile. Gas mileage. Journey of 1000 miles. People will come from miles around. Miles Davis…ok, I know, that’s pushing it.

The bummer is that now, under the guise of moving into the modern age, we’ve all gone metric. Right, I know, getting in sync with the rest of the world and all that. So, now high school distance events are in meters… 400 meters, 800 meters, 1600 meters, and, yes, you can see the pattern, 3200 meters. I know that there’s a good percentage of the running world that has no idea what their pace per Mile is in a given running event because their reference is kilometers. I don’t care. I’m talking about one Mile. Not 1600 freaking meters either. One Mile. Not a converted 1500 time. One Mile.

Does anyone talk about how many sub-4-minute 1609.3 meter races Steve Scott has run? Uh, no. (137 by the way) No, it’s about the Mile. It’s about legends Roger Bannister & John Landy. Herb Elliott & Peter Snell. Jim Ryun, Marty Liquori & Filbert Bayi. John Walker & Kip Keino. Eamonn Coghlan & Steve Scott. Sebastian Coe & Steve Ovett & Steve Cram. Noureddine Morceli & Hicham El Guerrouj. Alan Webb.

Ask any former high school track & field distance runner what they ran for a Mile was and, false humility and feigning memory issues aside, they’ll give you a time quicker than if they were asked their age. I’ve always joked about the universal male athletic bench mark of the bench press (really, no pun intended there). “So how much can you bench?” Well, in the world of high school distance running, the Mile is the gold standard. Yes, a fast 2 Mile will garner a lot of respect in the same way that a blazing half mile will impress those who lack any measure of genetically imparted speed but the Mile is the standard by which all are measured. “Really, you ran distance? What did you go for a Mile?” Then an E.F. Hutton moment follows as all present are all ears in anticipation of the response.

Anyway, back to running a Mile and why. If you’re like most endurance athletes, you started with a single sport and took it through every distance over the course of a decade or more. You then progressed to another discipline or combined disciplines and took this to its upper end of its addictive potential. By the time you arrive at the end stage (marathon and/or Ironman/ and/or ultra-marathon and/or 24-hour+ adventure racing), you’re left with one of three options: 1 – keep on going – albeit more slowly; 2 – move to the couch; 3 – regress. I’ve chosen to regress. One Mle.

Think about it. It’s a no-brainer really. While the next generation of endurance nincompoops is rabidly consuming training volume like cruise ship passengers at the buffet, consider going back to the purity of 4 laps around the track. Actually, in most cases it’s actually 4.0058125 laps because of the advent of 400-meter tracks and the necessity of adding the 9.3-meters to the start of the 4-laps in order to measure a true Mile. Whatever, right? Well, no. It can only be a Mile when it’s measured correctly. I know. I’m getting old. Still, it’s important. Nothing worse than some poser telling you how fast they ran a Mile when, in fact, it was only 1600 meters. Weak.

The idea came from a friend – let’s call him Keith Simmons – who had buddies back east who were all past the 40-year-old mark and, while all had run very fast in their youth, like most of us, had gotten jobs and/or had families and/or both. As their kids got older and/or they were more established in their chosen professions, time constraints loosened as mortality closed in resulting in that perfect storm known as the “midlife crisis”. Staring the last vestiges of youth square in the face, they realized that this might be their last shot at going under 5-minutes for a Mile. They wanted to form a “club” of sorts. The “Sub-5 Club”. I can feel the derision of every young, fast distance runner scoffing at such a lame and desperate attempt at “going slow”. That’s OK. Age humbles all in the end. No one gets out of here alive.

So, one of my neighborhood recess partners (we’ll call him Jason Tuffs) said, “why don’t we do that?” After a lot of “yeah, right” responses, at least three or four had committed. Even in those who wouldn’t commit, you could see the light in their eyes and watch smiles of anticipation form. That was back in early November. Race day was set as December 20th. That meant we had a solid 7-weeks to train.

The Mile on December 20th was GREAT! All of the neighborhood recess partners showed up and then some. My training partners and, really, the impetus behind keeping this thing alive, Jason Tuffs and Andrew Block (both complete with spikes), and the rest of the crew including Iron Jay Kuderka, Marc “Fat & out of shape” Lees (in black pajama pants), Dave “Super Dave” Jewell, Roch “I’m training for the Beer Mile” Frey, Heather “3rd at X-Terra Hawaii World Champs Trail Run” Fuhr, Bob “What? There’s a race? Babbitt, Paula “I just want to watch” Newby-Fraser, Wade “I ran 100-miles yesterday” Blomgren, Julie Block and Lisa Spenser

The “race” wasn’t as much a race as it was an exercise in pacing and pain. It was surprising to feel the same feelings before, during and after an “event” that was so short and so low key. It didn’t matter. There was the same nervousness, anticipation, and “what am I doing” feelings in the minutes before the start. The same excuses and universal sand bagging before the start. The same battle with yourself to find the right balance between going too hard too early and holding back too much. The same temptation to give up on the third lap when you’re up to your arms in anaerobic pain but still have more than a lap to go. Granted, each of these lasted mere seconds but that’s the point. Before you know it, it’s over. If you do it right, you can find an Ironman’s worth of emotions & suffering in a single Mile run for about 1/100th the investment in time, money, and energy.

Within 30-seconds of finishing, Ironman champion Heather Fuhr remarked to Newby, “Look at them. (meaning the rest of us) You know what’s coming.” She was right. Before we stopped breathing hard the word has already been uttered. Re-match. We were so close. If we kept doing what we’d been doing over the past 7-weeks for another 4 to 6-weeks, we’d surely go under 5-minutes. Pure hubris. January 30th. We’ll see. I predict injuries.

I don’t think people realize how motivating it is to pursue a distance and intensity that seems to have become foreign to most of us. The progress you see is meteoric if you’ve been in aerobic mode for a while and, let’s face it, 90% of the endurance sport population has been in “aerobic, finishing is winning” mode for a while now. There’s nothing wrong with that. After a while though, what about trying the other end of the spectrum? What about performance? What about going fast? – whatever that might mean to you.

At the age of 47 with too many miles on my chassis and less time for activities I love, I’ve found renewed motivation for consistently exercising (I can’t bring myself to call it “training” anymore) through shortened “seasons” chasing one activity with an end goal. I moved from the fall paddling/SUP season to winter running and one Mile.

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