Every now and then, I see an article in a magazine titled something like, “Banish junk miles!” The idea is that every training session should have a specific purpose, boosting speed or endurance.
I think I must run a lot of junk miles. Almost every run I do is unpremeditated, usually a case of: “I haven’t done any exercise today, and/or the dog needs a walk, so I’ll go for a run.” They tend to be fairly spontaneous and don’t follow any kind of plan (except when I need to increase my distance, in which case I will do a long run each week in the run up to the event).
I know this is not really the way to improve my running. Running structured sessions such as intervals, and, in particular, running with other people, are the main things I need to do to get faster. I’ve been running well this year – I smashed my half marathon PB in March with a time of 1:46 at the Alloa Half Marathon – but I haven’t done any “proper” running training. I’m purely benefiting from my cycling fitness, I think.
So I run a lot of “junk” miles. I run mostly off-road, distances between 3 and 6 miles in general. Some weeks I only run once, others (usually when I’m at home with the dog) I run a lot. I’ve been for four runs already this week, two of them on the same day!
I also usually run with Rory, who has a tendency to want to stop abruptly to sniff things, pee, or say hello to other dogs (or small children). He hates running on pavements, and this morning dragged his heels for the first mile of our run until we got to the woods and he could be let off the lead, at which point he zoomed off. Occasionally he gets distracted by a good smell and disappears into the undergrowth and I have to wait for him to come back (usually only for a minute or so). I generally run much more slowly when I have Rory with me. My race pace this year has been between 8 and 8.30 minutes per mile. On my own, even off-road, I tend to run 9-10 minutes per mile. Bring Rory into the equation and that becomes more like 11or 12 minutes!
But even though all those rambles through the woods with the dog probably aren’t doing much for my speed, I don’t consider them to be junk miles. For a start, they’re keeping my run fitness up to some degree. But more importantly, they make me feel good. I enjoy running, and I am fortunate enough to live in a beautiful place with lots of inviting (albeit muddy) trails. I enjoy spending time with my dog – after all, the whole point of getting a spaniel was that a gun dog would have the stamina to keep up on long runs and walks.
So I vote to banish the concept of “junk miles.” It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make you faster, or if it isn’t in the training plan. If a run makes you feel good, it’s definitely not “junk.”
And just to underscore my point, here are a couple of photos from this morning’s run. Definitely not junk.