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July 17, 2010

Doug Hawley: Steady increases in training runs is best

As area runners prepare for the first Dalton Half Marathon, they are encouraged to abide by the 10 percent rule. No, this does not relate to tithing. Sorry, preachers!

It means not running more than a 10 percent increase in total miles from one week to the next.

Let’s say that in four weeks of training, you have built up to 20 miles per week on five days of running. Try to hold the next week to 22.

This seems like a minimal increase. However, this 10 percent rule has stood the test of time for world class runners and those who simply seek personal gratification.

It keeps runners, for the most part, from extra strain on their bodies and creates less chance of injury, particularly to the lower body.

Some years ago, I attended the Florida Track Club’s distance running camp at North Carolina’s Brevard College. Roy Benson, who later became the Gators’ head track and cross country coach, was the director for activity that encompassed high school, college and adult runners.

Those Floridians, who made up the majority, did find the mountainous area in western North Carolina quite different from their native flatlands. They seemed to endorse the terrain for altitude training.

With little to occupy their time except running (and some heavy eating), virtually everybody ran at least twice a day. A few even ran three times a day. It seemed unlikley that anybody abided by the 10 percent rule from the week prior. Some of us paid dearly with fatigued bodies by the time we returned home.

Nevertheless, I looked at that week as an “exception to the rule.” There was too much fun involved.

Early every morning at that camp before breakfast, participants ran in several groups of comparable speeds. One man who chose to run with the slower females was asked why.

“Their sweat smells better,” he said.

We had been warned all week about a challenge on the final day: a one-mile run up infamous Agony Hill. In Dalton, it compared to Mount Sinai, except this was a winding trail.

Getting up Agony Hill did not prove that daunting for me. Perhaps I was overconfident on the way back down. My pride would not allow a couple of stellar high school boys to pull away. Wrong decision.

Abruptly, I fell down the hill. Fortunately, there were no broken bones.

When I arrived at the bottom of the hill battered and bloodied, a runner exclaimed, “Where have you been? In a scrimmage with the Chicago Bears?”

Yes, running can be a contact sport — at least with the ground.

Pride is good. Nevertheless, may those training for the Dalton Half Marathon show more common sense than yours truly did on Agony Hill.

This is the fourth in a 16-part series of instructional columns leading up to the first national Dalton Half Marathon on Oct. 16. Its focus is primarily for those running their first 13.1-mile event. Doug Hawley, a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years, was a top 10 percent finisher in each of the Boston Mara-thons from 1976 to 1981.

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