I often try to think "What would Arthur say?" and think also what would be the best way to convey that message to others. When you go back to the very beginning of Run to the Top, Lydiard talks about "enjoyment" of running. I guess I still go out and run, with my beaten-up overweight out-of-shape body, simply because I still like that feeling. I worry, when people start talking about too rigid of "planning" that this element of "fun" may or may not diminish. I was reading an interview with Koji Murofushi, the first and only Japanese (Asian?) to have ever won the weight event (hammer throw) Olympic (gold) and world championship medal (silver). He said he never plan his day-to-day training. If you do, he said, "you may stop training before you push yourself to the limit; or you may overdo it when your body's too tired." This is the ultimate go-by-how-you-feel approach. But, Bjorn, if you love running and you feel perfectly fine and exhilarated from running 2 hours or more, by all mean, go ahead and do it regardless of what others might say. Why limit it simply because someone else said you’re too young? I don’t think Arthur would have approved it. Just keep it well within yourself and never push the pace or let someone else push the pace for you.
With the same token, I think it’s silly to restrict yourself from doing other types of training or racing here and there simply because you feel you need to just build the aerobic base for the first 10 years. Conditioning, I’ve since learnt, is not just running long distance. All the hill exercises, all the repetitions, all the drills, all the time trials, all the races…all these will “condition” your body and mind for future performance. It’s just that there should be a greater emphasis on aerobic base building in the early years. Also, don’t be fooled by “Africans run nice and easily for miles and miles” period. Consider types of terrain they run and the condition that they run in. They run lots of rugged cross country with lots of hills also barefoot or close to barefoot. It will be quite different if you just run and run and run easy miles on concrete in high-tech thick bulky modern running shoes. Sure you’ll develop great aerobic base but other aspects such as flexible feet and ankles and smooth strides may be sacrificed.
Don’t shy away from races. Just don’t overdo it. Don’t despair if you lose it to someone who’s been doing lots of intervals because they will be sharper. Know that your time will come. Don’t get discouraged by those losses; but understand clearly what you’re trying to accomplish today and what you will be reaching out in the few years time. I’m going to contradict what I said earlier here but map out what you would like to achieve in 10 years time and have clear objectives each year what you need to do. Remember, if your ultimate goal is 5000m, you should be trying to do some shorter races like 1500m. But also jump into some 10k or half marathon for stamina building. Consider your physical attribute such as body type and basic speed (200m) to determine what event you are best suited for and draw a map to reach your ultimate goal. This, I assume, would not be just jogging for the next 10 years.