Monday, July 12, 2010

The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials

Any running aficionado will agree that the best fictional running book ever written is "Once a Runner" by John L. Parker Jr. The author was a former collegiate runner who struggled to sell his book when it was published in 1978. Now it has become a classic, inspiring many runners to toughen up and relate to the hardships of the protagonist Quenton Cassidy. The book is so powerful because of the author's own connection to running as well as his magical gift for rhetoric.

Original Cover:

New Cover:

One particular quote that stands out in the novel refers to the training philosophy of Bruce Denton, teammate, mentor and future coach for Cassidy. He truly believed in The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials.

He understood the idea that the body would respond to repeated, consistent stimuli over a long duration. The trial that veteran Denton would place on the freshmen would be a 7 miler in the morning, every day. Denton was obsessed with mileage and would even run before and after races just to get more in. The 7 miler he completed in the morning was nothing incredible, a fairly moderate pace. Many a confident freshman would scoff at the pace, easily completing a workout. However, the point was not to just finish one workout, but grind through consecutive days, weeks, months of steady miles. Consequently, the numbers would dwindle down every morning; fewer freshman would return after a week of running, broken down by the trial of miles.

This leads to the discussion of over training, a term that is thrown around way too much by folks who simply don't want to under go the trial of miles. The whole idea behind the philosophy is to discipline the body over a long period of time, and only sprinkling higher intensities here and there.

In today's society, we are all being tricked into thinking we can get anything in a matter of days or weeks - a special pill for this, a specifically designed machine for that.

Diet pills:

Training gimmicks:

People are too soft to put in the Trial of Miles. We are scared to be uncomfortable, looking for the outcome without putting any work in. It is the same western philosophy that teaches us that work is not required to get what you want. This is fundamentally flawed, because we must understand that the journey, the trial is where we find meaning.

Thus, his quote can be applied to anything worthwhile in life. You have to work to achieve anything. You may refer to it as the miles of trials or the hard yards in running, time under the bar in strength training, hitting the books hard in school, or jamming until your fingers bleed - all sayings encompass the notion of work and time.

A quote from the book, referring, although I may be wrong, to Denton:

"And too there were questions: What did he eat? Did he believe in isometrics? Isotonics? Ice and heat? How about aerobics, est, ESP, STP? What did he have to say about yoga, yogurt, Yogi Berra? What was his pulse rate, his blood pressure, his time for 100-yard dash? What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials. How could they be expected to understand that?" - Once a Runner by John L. Parker, Jr.

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding post!!! I agree that as a society, Americans are getting weeker. Video games have replaced going outside and playing ball etc. I am not an elite runner by any standards but know that the Trial of Miles is what is important. I have completed (4) marathons and a half marathon and know that it is the consistant day in and day out training that gets you through 26.2 miles. It is the same with life either personal, professional, or financial, it is a day by day one little victory at a time that wins out in the end. There is no substitute for hard work, dedication, and determination.

    London, OH