Richard Benyo: Articles and Columns

Beginning Running

Runner’s World

June 1979

Moving up

When talking with relative newcomers to running, two questions frequently come up: How long is a new runner considered a beginner? What are the limits of a beginning runner?

There is certainly much to be said for the runner who, after three years, is doing 15-25 miles a week, who feels better, looks trimmer, enjoys the excursions along the local roads, and who doesn’t mind taking a moment to stop and smell the flowers. This is certainly a very humane way to run; sort of the perfect example of Long Slow Distance.

It is the way most runners in the country get in their running.

Every runner, however, needs inspiration, no matter what his or her current mileage. I get mine by reading accounts of the past or current ultra-distance exploits of Ted Corbitt, Tom Osler, Frank Bozanich, Don Ritchie, Don Choi, Andy Gonzales, Abe Underwood, Nick Marshall, or one of those wild and crazy guys. I figure that contemplating Don Ritchie running 100 kilometers at a sub-6:00 pace can embarrass me into doing a 10-mile workout at a meager 6:30 pace.

It is enjoyable to receive accounts from relative beginners, then, who have decided that their 25-mile weeks just aren’t enough to satisfy them. We received an account of one such move from maintenance mileage to mega-mileage, with appropriately revised goals in racing from 50-yearold Lane Blank, a branch manager in data management at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif.

“In a year I’ve gone from 25-30 miles per week maintenance, gradually building to 90-100, including seven marathons and numerous shorter races,” Lane wrote. “Concurrently my weight dropped from 175 pounds to less than 150 on a 5’9” frame.”

Lane had run his first marathon in April of 1978 in a less-than-spectacular 5:08:30. As with many first-time marathoners, however, once he did one he wanted to test himself against others. He improved in less than a year to a 3:12:11 marathon. Obviously he had followed a very logical, very gradual build-up. (You don’t do seven marathons at 50 years old coming from a starting point of 25-30 miles per week without being very careful about your mileage increases.)

Lane wanted to do something that would solidify, in his mind, the commitment he’d made to serious running. He decided to do a 50-mile run on his 50th birthday. However, there were some problems with the calendar. He also wanted to run the Orange County Marathon in April, since it would be the first anniversary of his initial marathon experience; that would obviously interfere with his birthday run, so he scheduled his 50-miler for March.

Lane put together a course that featured an out-and-back 34-mile section, with a 16-mile out-and-back in another direction once he’d completed the first section. He had several friends scheduled to run portions of it with him, and had his aid stations all plotted out, some of the stations being public water fountains, while other were landmarks where friends would be waiting with refreshments and encouragement.

The day was temperate (between 48 and 62 degrees), the course almost flat, and there was a slight head wind during the final 6.5 miles. Most of his miles were done at a 9:00 pace; between miles 45 and 48 he dropped to a 10:30 pace, with the final miles nearly a sprint at 8:15 pace. Lane completed the 50 miles in 7:53:07. He passed the marathon distance at 3:50. He had no cramps, blisters, or chafing. He credits his incredible accomplishment to using advice from various sources - all of which advised him to run steady and relaxed, rather than trying to push it the entire length.

His diet was typically American, including meats, pasta, pastries, eggs, cheese, ice cream, fresh and canned fruits, and specially peanut butter.

The following day he pushed himself back onto the road, in an attempt to keep the stiffness out of his body. He ran 9.5 miles at an 8:10 pace, later in the day taking a 23-mile bicycle ride. “Forty-eight hours after the ordeal,” he reported, “I felt like Tony the Tiger - GRRRRREAT!”

He reports that his neighbor, a heart attack victim, who has completed three marathons to date, wants to try the AAU 50-Mile Championship in Santa Monica in September. By then, for “beginning runner” Lane Blank, being handled may be more his style. He’s not the kind of a guy who enjoys getting splinters in his backside from being a spectator. Go for it, Lane!