If you know anything about me and my running, you know there’s nothing more I love about running than running fast.
Well, fast for me, that is.
I’m not interested in running long distances. I primarily race the 5K and the mile, with the mile being my absolute favorite. My opinion has always been that slow, sustained running is BORING.
But if you like running longer distances, cool. Do it, and have fun.
Also, this doesn’t mean I don’t run longer-ish distances. I’ve been working with the extremely patient Ryan Hill at hillrunner.com for some time now, and he’s been getting me to increase my overall mileage, particularly my long runs. My “long” runs have increased from between 5-6 miles to now 8-10 miles. And I’m sure at some point, he’ll try to get me to stretch those distances even longer.
(Ryan’s great, btw. I’ve learned a lot in the time I’ve been working with him, and I’ve broadened my thoughts on running and training. My running style/preferences are probably not really anywhere similar to his as a runner himself, but he’s smart, experienced, and he’s built a program suited to me and my goals. He’s forced me to stretch myself as a runner in ways I wouldn’t have done on my own. Also, my forthcoming rant in this post in no way reflects his opinions. It’s just me spouting off.)
Where I generally love speed work and hard workout runs, I don’t generally even like my long runs; however, I’ve now come around in understanding the benefit of them. They help you develop endurance and fatigue resistance, both of which are important for racing shorter distances.
Even as Ryan began stretching my long runs a little longer, internally I resisted them. I mean, I did the runs, but it was hard to slow down and do them right (sometimes I’m still not sure I’m doing them right, but not quite at the level I used to). I kept getting dinged up trying to run longer at faster paces than I should. That’s because all I’m used to, and tend to prefer, is running fast.
Then I got tired of the little foot and lower leg mini-injuries getting in my way, so I finally forced myself to slow down. I think between that and simply getting my body used to running longer, I stopped encountering these same mini-injuries as frequently.
(This isn’t to say I don’t still have occasional issues, because I do… just way less.)
What really clicked for me about longer running as training for shorter racing was when Ryan mentioned this idea of “fatigue resistance” to me. Context clues gave me a pretty clear idea of what it meant, even against the idea of traditional endurance, but when I looked into it further, my reaction was sort of just, “Well, of course I need to do long runs. And do them properly.”
I know I can run fast. Like, I can move. For instance, when I play softball, I’m not really much in the way of power hitting, so I’ll intentionally hit routine ground balls to the left side of the infield because I know I’m going to get on base if I do. More times that not, I’ll beat the throw from the shortstop, and nearly every time, I’m beating the throw from third.
But that’s all-out sprint speed. I can’t run a race at that speed. I’ve stopped feeling flattered when I run a 5K at a certain pace and people say, “That’s fast!” because truthfully I don’t think it’s that fast. Not only are plenty of other people finishing ahead of me, but it’s not really my max speed.
I don’t think I’ll feel flattered again at a compliment of a middle-distance race finish until someone says something like, “Man! Nice fatigue resistance! Way to sustain 80% (or whatever) of your max speed for that long a period of time!”
(Like, telling someone they’re fast is like complimenting them on their natural abilities, but complimenting them on their fatigue resistance is complimenting them on the hard work they’ve dedicated themselves to. Either way, I’ll smile and thank anyone who feels compelled to compliment me.)
Now this doesn’t mean I like long runs any more than I ever have. But it’s sort of like training in general–I don’t generally “like” training, per se; however, I love racing, I love pushing myself, and I love finishing a race knowing I got everything out of myself that I possibly could have. And to get the full race experience, proper training is a necessity.
Okay, so fast forward to what angered me enough to come out of blog hibernation and write all this:
The running community annoys–and even angers–me, particularly when it comes to the idea of running different distances.
Whenever I hear, “Oh, it’s just a 5K,” I become slightly aggravated. Depending on the context, I can understand the point, though. But when it comes to the mile, I become downright defensive.
I never ran in high school, college, or at any sort of organized level, so it’s not like I have an attachment to my mile days way back then. I only started running in earnest about 4 years ago. And I got more serious about it a little less than two years ago. But the start of my “running journey,” if you will, came with a desire to get good at the mile.
Seriously, I can’t fully and accurately describe how much it unnerves me when I mention liking to run the mile to other runners, and their response is, “The mile? One mile? Just a mile? Oh.” And the “Oh.” is always said in such a deflating, demeaning tone.
Or when I’m out on a run, or at the gym, wearing the race shirt from one of my one-mile races, and someone says, “Is that a beer mile?”
I just so badly want to snap back at these people. Like, hey, screw you, slow person! Not all runners are distance runners! Not every one-mile race is a beer mile! I don’t even drink!
Recently I was at the gym wearing one of my Schlitz Park Miler shirts, though, and an older gentleman came up to me and asked, “Hey, can you run a mile in less than 6 minutes?”
WHY YES I CAN! THANK YOU FOR ASKING THAT QUESTION AND NOT BEING A TOTAL A-HOLE ABOUT THE MILE!
I’m not sure if this guy was a runner or not, though, as he was mostly doing basic calisthenics. I can say, though, that of all the interactions with strangers that my preference for the mile has prompted, this was the very first positive one.
But then it happened again. Sort of. Well, yes, but no. Not to me anyway.
I was reading some comments on a Facebook post from the Milwaukee Running Festival, announcing they were putting distances on this year’s full and half marathon medals, and adding a 5K medal. The post also asked people to make suggestions for things they’d like to see.
If you’re not familiar with the Milwaukee Running Festival, it’s a 2-day running festival that includes Milwaukee’s only full marathon to take place entirely within the city limits, a half marathon, a 5K, and also a one-mile race. It even bills itself very inclusively as “A running event for every runner.”
One guy, who I happen to have met at a social run leading up to last year’s MKE Run Fest, made a comment on this post, suggesting cash prizes for top mile and 5K finishers. From having met this guy and talking to him at this social run last summer, I know he was an 800-meter runner at a small college, and in post-collegiate adulthood, he still sticks to shorter distances–particularly the mile when available.
So in response to his comment, an older woman (a quick search on Athlinks for whom shows she’s not even that fast or anything), chimes in with “Man up and run the longer distance! 🙂 ”
Now, I don’t now if this lady knows the guy and this was a joke, or a friendly/playful jab at him, or something. Not knowing that, I can’t tell if the smiley face was intended as a joke, or a way to simply get away with insulting his preference for shorter distances. If they know each other, okay, fine. Still stupid, but whatever. But I’m guessing most people don’t know the extent of their relationship, if there is one.
What a dumb, rude thing to say, slow old lady.
The guy who posted that comment ran a sub-5 mile at last year’s MKE Run Fest. If it were a running peer of his–another runner of approximately his caliber–telling him to man up and run a longer distance, then maybe it’d be more acceptable… MAYBE.
And the fact that more people clicked like on the woman’s response comment than his original comment (MKE Run Fest itself was the only to like his comment), infuriates me further. I thought the running community was supportive? Doesn’t seem very supportive to me, especially given this is supposedly an all-runner inclusive event.
There’s all this discussion in running circles about “Are you a runner? Am I a runner? What makes someone a runner?” Most of the time, the consensus in these discussions is “If you run, you’re a runner.”
Cool. Then it’s settled, right? No, apparently not. What I find is that most other “runners” tend to discredit, demean, and diminish your “runnerhood” if you don’t run longer and longer and longer distances. Like, the shorter the distance you run, the less serious you are about it or something?
DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD I TRAIN TO IMPROVE AT THE DISTANCES I RUN?!?!?!?!?
I am putting in work over here, people!
I would much rather put in the time and effort to improve myself at a shorter distance than simply run a half, full, or ultra marathon just to say I ran one.
It’s frustrating because I like the distances I run. Don’t make me feel like if I’m not racing as far as you, that I’m not “manning up,” or that shorter distances make someone any less of a runner than running long distances would.
If we say we’re all runners simply because we run, let us run how we want to run.