Friday, August 9, 2013

In Defense of Junk Miles

So, its a little hotter than you wanted, a bit too humid, looks like it might rain, and maybe its an hour later than you wanted it to be.  Its a Tuesday  morning, you are supposed to do 5 miles.  You don't feel great (but you aren't injured).  What do you do?

A) run slowly and stop a bunch for water

B) Take the day off

C) Cross-train inside for a bit

D)Wait until that evening and reassess

The "better to undertrain" crowd would probably vote for B.  Let me make the argument for A.  I don't really think there is such a thing as junk miles with two exceptions, unless they lead to continuing really bad habits or likely to aggravate an existing injury they are just miles and you should do them.  Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night etc.  Running when you are sub-par (but not if you're hurt) is too much a part of endurance running to skip in lieu of a sub-par run, which is better than no run at all.  Nothing bad probably happens if you skip one short run, but keeping the habit going is even better, even if not optimal.  No one can train purposefully and brilliantly day in day out but we can get out there, even if just for a slog.  Plus tomorrow is only a day away.


  1. I've never understood what a junk mile was, or the difference between a "junk" run and a "recovery" run. Also, I never know what kind of run I'm going to have until I'm having it. Days that feel like they're going to be a complete drag sometimes turn into the nicest runs of the week.

  2. I'm with you both.

    I *think* when somebody says junk miles, he/she means "a run that is not itself meeting a particular need but undermines a run that does." Thus, if you headed out for 9 miles the day before your planned 18-miler, much of the prior run was junk miles because it undermined your long run. Same if your key workout was a speed workout.

    But if it's a question of the couch or the pavement, pavement has to win every time. Late last night after the movie (Elysium -- intriguing if preachy) P__ wanted to run. We spent 20' up and down the streets in the neighborhood. No junk there at all.

  3. This week I started the Hansons (not the band) running plan in preparation for CIM in December. In running circles it's known as basically the only plan around where the long runs top out at 16 miles, as opposed to 20-22. It's gotten some flack for that, but it seems to get outstanding results for many people, including sub-3 types.

    This is relevant to the original post because Hansons is essentially a plan built on junk miles. It has you running 6 days a week, and each run is at least 6 miles long. The plan gets around the 20-milers by having you run shorter long runs on tired legs. So, you might have a 15- or 16-miler on Sunday, but you'll have an 8- or 10-miler on Saturday, and you'll also have run on Thursday and Friday. The theory is that, although you're only running 16 miles, those miles feel more like miles 10-26 of a marathon, instead of miles 1-16. (Or maybe 4-20, but you get the point.)

  4. I am highly eager to see how that goes for you. I love the concept for many reasons, but a primary one is that I love runs between 6 and 16 miles and am not a huge fan of runs longer than 16 miles (or shorter than 6, for that matter).

  5. Six to Sixteen! I've never really thought about it that way, but it is true. I tend to think of it as 1-2.5 hours. Anything shorter doesn't feel like a full workout. Longer requires a nap.