A Day Off


A Day Off

by Patrick Reed

Just yesterday, I was fortunate enough to host endurance training expert Phil Maffetone for an afternoon and dinner  at our home in San Luis Obispo, California. Phil and Coralee joined Jana and our kids and I for a great afternoon of sharing life. We chatted all sorts of topics, and Phil and I repeatedly returned to our shared passion of distance running and endurance training. We spoke of running greats such as Greta Waitz, Matt Centrowitz (both senior and junior:), Alberto Salazar, Ryan Hall, Haile Gebresellasie and many more – as we enthusiastically considered the principles of training and diet.  After dinner, we capped off the evening by being serenaded by Phil and Coralee on guitar and piano — singing a variety of Phil’s original songs. (If you listen in to my upcoming podcast episode, you will hear one of these excellent tunes.)

The “reason” for our meeting was an interview we recorded about the 1:59 Marathon. Phil wrote an article over a decade ago predicting that a sub 2-hour marathon was only a matter of time, and subsequently Phil has fleshed out this first article with a 7-part extended essay about all of the necessary components which are key to breaking through this long-standing barrier. If you want to read these articles, run on over to philmaffetone.com. The podcast episode which will include our conversation is due out later this week – so stay tuned!

I mention details of our conversation to broach a difficult subject for me — but one relevant to the distance runner, and particularly to the streaking distance runner. Namely — the dreaded “Day Off.” Let me opine on this subject for a bit.

One thing – of many – which Phil said which sticks with me regards learning from our experiences. After describing to Phil the debacle of my achilles injury of nearly 3 years ago now, and my hard-headedness in overtraining which contributed to this demise, Phil nodded and shook his head, and then said, “But you know, the key thing when considering failures like this one is to learn from your mistake.”

This simple statement, coming from a respected voice in the distance running world, resonated with me — and thus, this evening, as I considered the slightest of twinges in — yeah, you guessed it — my ever-present achilles injury, I was confronted by the  question as to  whether  today might be the day to take a day off. To finally learn from the past. To intentionally stray from the rigidity and religion of my run-everyday regimen and to protect my body and legs from my ever-present penchant to train too much, to run too far, too often, too quickly…

On this day, I can finally drive a stake in the ground and take a stand for my longevity’s sake. I can once and for all  break from the grace-less treadmill of the compulsory run. No longer will I have to lace up the shoes at 11:30 p.m. as I had to do last night, and bid goodbye to Phil Maffetone even as I dart out the door to barely complete my day’s 5k before the stroke of midnight.

The freedom granted by the day off is palpable. I should do this. I can do this! Even if my achilles doesn’t pain me, such discipline – the discipline of not running – would be a balm to my running soul.

So, how do I break it to you that I ran again tonight – and kept my streak intact? 106 days straight. In the books with the Streak Runners Association of America — where oodles of more running Pharisees like me attend to our daily communion, our ritual cleansing on the asphalt streets of the metropolises of the world. Yes, I ran. We ran. We cannot help ourselves, it seems. Even though Phil Maffetone himself  declares to us the “good news” that we need not keep to the letter of our own law — that freedom is indeed free — even still, we self-righteously drink from the fount of two familiar brothers: weakness and overtraining. Perhaps it is not weakness, on the one hand, but rather a lack of faith. Lack of faith in the training method. If we believed, we could wait a day. If we believed, we could trust that we could start anew with reinvigorated discipline each new day, without the need of the 100 prior days weight to propel us to run each consecutive day.

Yes, we runners are all – in some manifestation or other – incorrigible. Why else would we pace 5,000 steps per mile, for many miles, day after day? We must all be zealots of some stripe.

I tried to take a day off today, just as Phil Maffetone’s counsel reprimanded my conscience. But instead, I treaded still deeper into the luxurious, selfish oblivion of the addict. I couldn’t just “stop it!” I had to run.