Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Art of Empty Miling

Designed as a derogatory term, 'empty miles' refer to the 'junk' miles that some distance runners have a tendency to do to flesh out the weekly training statistics. They have little physiological benefit, take up time that could be better spent on other forms of training and have no place in a serious endurance runner's training schedule. They are, however, what running is all about.

As a teenager, reared on schedules where every session had to count and even easy runs were for 'recovery' not enjoyment, I soon became disillusioned. A PB in the 5k or 10k would be cool, but at what expense? I liked to run long, off-road, easy. And so I started to substitute short, track, hard for long, off-road, easy in my training. My times suffered, but I looked forward to every run. Years later, after turning my back on that early promise and failing to fulfil any potential I had, I met a runner I'd known from those times. 'He could have been really good,' he told the friend I was with, 'but he didn't like the hard work. And he ran too many empty miles.'
I raised my eyebrows, laughed and replied, 'Yeah, you're right - too many empty miles.'

Fast-forward to the present day and a lifetime of running based on empty miles. I've had some success, but not a great deal. But it's been a blast, and will continue to be so.

Whether spending a day on the Lakeland Fells, running a 30 mile loop in the Lincolnshire Wolds or jogging down to the bridge and back with my young lad, empty miles continue to dominate my running. I could train 'smarter.' I could include more structured speedwork into my training. I'm sure I could improve my PB's in distances from 5k to half-marathon. But, then again, they're not really important to me. And, anyway, most travellers would agree that enjoying the journey is more important than arriving at the destination.

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