Something weird happened. After work this evening I went for a run. That’s not the weird part, I do that all the time. Eli and I are taking a longish bike ride tomorrow so I wanted to save my legs—my run was really a slow jog. That’s not weird either. I recently started following the 80/20 running plan. In this plan, you jog eighty percent of your miles. The other twenty, you run. It’s not clear to me how hard I should run on my twenty percenters. I’ve only taken one of these runs so far. I guess I ran pretty hard. I felt great the whole way. Maybe the plan is working.
On the other hand, my eighty percent pace is well defined. I should run below my ventilatory threshold (VT1). I got this book out of the library: 80/20 Running. I expected a bunch of charts and graphs I could browse that would give me a basic idea of what I’m trying to achieve. No charts, no graphs. There weren’t even any pictures. Just hundreds of pages of dense text talking about VT1s and VO2 Maxes and RPE. My brain shut down.
As we drove to Vermont to take Sophie to college, Susan read enough of the book that she could explain VT1 to me. Since that’s eighty percent of the plan, it seemed like the most important part to understand. For eighty percent of my running, I should run at a pace where I can conduct a comfortable conversation.
For people like me who never run with anybody, the author suggests counting out loud while running. Seven hundred seventy-six, seven hundred seventy-seven, seven hundred seventy-eight, etc. If my breath gets in the way of my counting, I’m running too fast. Here’s what I learned, running below my VT1 is really slow. Running, for the first time in my life, is really easy.
Back to the weird.
So today, as I slowly ran one of the Gettysburg Battlefield roads, counting, a woman flagged me down. “Are you from around here?” Fifteen years ago I would have said “Yes, less than a mile away.” I’ve since learned that No, I’m not from around here, I’m from DC. Eli is the only one in my family who is from around here. He was born at Gettysburg Hospital. The rest of us will NEVER be from around here.
I gave her the universal palm towards the ground teeter-totter hand signal for ‘ish,’ I’m from around-here-ish. And I stopped running. That’s the weird part right there. I stopped running to talk with a tourist. I’ve been running for forty-one years. I’ve never once stopped in the middle of a run to talk with a tourist.
“Last time we were visiting, we went down a flight of stairs into a dark restaurant. We can’t remember what it was called” As she talked, she kept getting closer to me. I gave her another universal hand signal which I’ll call Back off, Jack. Covid and all. She repeated the same description, down stairs, dark, two more times while her husband stood to the side looking embarrassed that his wife had interrupted a perfectly good run with this inane question.
“To me, it sounds like you’re describing the Dobbin House.” Her husband lit up. “Yes, I remember the name now, that’s right!” The woman began to apologize for breathing in my space, how she forgot about the disease. I told her not to worry about it. I jogged off feeling great because I acted completely out of character and helped someone, and my run was easy-peasy, and it was a pretty fall evening, and because I’m going on a longish ride with my son tomorrow morning.
80/20 running seems to be a positive change.