When ultramarathoner Perry Edinger spoke recently at Endurance Rehab, I was front and center in the audience. His topic: "What comes first, speed or distance?"
As a competitor of races like the Wasatch 100, the Western States 100, and the Badwater 135 miler, Edinger knows his stuff. After all, Edinger needs speed to keep on pace when he has to meet his posse at designated aid and recovery stations on his brutal courses.
He answered the compelling question right off the bat -- first establish endurance. Go long. Run your base miles. Push yourself to go farther. And THEN, speed it up. How do you do that? -- intervals at the track? speedwork on a flat course?
Edinger believes it's the hills that make a good distance runner better. The natural body position while climbing -- forward lean, smaller strides, tall running form and level chin -- is what gets a runner up and over a mountain. But it's those same techniques that translate into speed over the entire course.
When a runner can maintain proper form for hours and hours, he is going to far outrun a competitor with poor running form. Edinger recommends hill repeats as an alternative to hitting the track. He also suggests taking one trail run a week to gain ankle strength and stability.
So don't avoid the hills on a distance run. Go for it. Ditch the Garmin and quit worrying about maintaining a specific pace according to your training plan. Let the hills dictate the pace. Steady up, then quick down. And while you're at it, turn off road and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Who knows? Someday, you'll might want to try the Wasatch 100, too.
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