Running: The Hero's Journey and Yin Running
In 2020, for the first time, I tried the Hero’s Journey: 20 laps around a standard, 400-meter running track. Rather than running one lap after another without a break, you run a full 400-meter lap, then jog half way around the track (200 meters), then run another 400-meter lap, followed by jogging half way around — a pattern you follow until you’ve run 20 laps (the half laps that you jog don’t count toward the 20 laps of the Journey). There are a few more guidelines:
- If you have to stop, either completely or to walk, that’s the end of your attempt at the Hero’s Journey for the day.
- You speed up as you proceed, and if you fail to speed up, that’s also the end of your journey for the day. To make it a bit simpler to keep track of how fast you need to go, divide the journey into 5 sets of 400-meter laps and create goals for each set, e.g., finish each of the first 4 laps in under 2:15, then finish each of the second set of 4 laps in under 2:10, etc.
- Sprint the last lap of the day, and set a goal for that 400, too.
- There’s no goal for how fast to jog between each 400-meter lap, just make sure you’re being honest with yourself and not walking or going any slower than necessary.
- For no good reason, I decided that Halloween week — specifically, the span from Sunday through Saturday that includes Halloween — is the Hero’s Journey Challenge, the self-test that you build toward through the summer and early fall; which day during the week that you take the challenge is up to you. One of these years, I’m going to start training for the Hero’s Journey on Memorial Day weekend in order to give myself 20 weeks to train for 20 400s.
In addition to practicing the Hero’s Journey itself, and in order to get used to intervals of running 400 meters interspersed with jogging 200 meters, I include three other running workouts in my preparation:
- Hills and Bounding: I run up a hill or stairs, run along the top of whatever I’ve climbed, jog down the hill or stairs, bound to the base of the hill or stairs, and repeat this loop as often as it makes sense that day. There’s a school near my house and it’s at the top of a hill, so I run up the steps to its parking lot, run along the parking lot to its driveway, jog down its driveway, then bound from the base of the driveway to the bottom of the stairs.
- Mile Run with 100s: After a warm up, run a mile as fast as you’re able (I use four loops around a standard track, which is actually 1600 meters, as an approximation), then alternate 100 meter all out sprints along the straightaway (you’re Sha’Carri Richardson or Usain Bolt) with 100 meter jogging around the curves. For this one, it’s fine to rest a bit between the 100 meter sprints.
- Yin Running. This is my name for and interpretation of a recovery run. I described my guidelines for Yin Running in the June issue of my email newsletter, Disappearing Moment.
Update, November 7, 2021: I completed my Second Annual Hero’s Journey on Saturday, November 6, 2021. I ran sub-2:15 for each of the first four 400s, then sub-2:10, then sub-2:05, then sub-2:00, then sub-1:55 for the last four 400s. For my last lap in the last set of 400s, I ran 1:48. While I didn’t ultimately run my sets of 400s as fast as I’d hoped when I made my plans for my 2021 Hero’s Journey, it was still an accomplishment that felt meaningful to me. In 2020, I ran from sub-2:10 down to sub-1:50, and completed my last lap in 1:43. For 2022, my goal is to start sub-2:00 and finish my last set of four in sub-1:40.
Update, November 7, 2022: I completed my Third Annual Hero’s Journey on Saturday, November 5, 2022. Once again, I ran sub-2:15 for each of the first four 400s, then sub-2:10, then sub-2:05, then sub-2:00, then sub-1:55 for the last four 400s. For my last lap in the last set of 400s, I ran 1:53 — this year’s Journey felt more difficult than the first two. It was another year in which I didn’t run my sets of 400s as fast as I’d hoped when I made my plans for my Hero’s Journey, and another year in which the accomplishment felt meaningful. I plan to avoid making a goal in 2023 that’s based on pace. As long as I complete another Hero’s Journey during Halloween week in 2023, that’s good enough for me.