Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Friday, November 12, 2010

There's More than Just the Marathon

I read an interesting article in Running Times by Pete Magill about the fascination with the marathon and the lack of respect for the shorter distances (it’s worth noting that Pete ran a sub 15:00 5k at the age of 47). I’ve provided a link below to the full article and used parts of the article in writing this short article as this is a discussion I’ve had with many beginning and advanced runners about the focus on the marathon distance as opposed to the shorter distances like the 5k and 10k. It’s interesting how many runners disregard the shorter distances.

“What I find is disrespect across the running community for the short to medium distances,” says Sam Kinkaid, a former college runner who shed 115 pounds in order to compete again as a masters athlete. “I get this general feeling that if you don’t run a marathon, or at least a half marathon, you’re not a distance runner!”

This follows many of the discussions I’ve had with runners who act as if you are not considered a real runner until you finish a marathon. I know for many, the marathon represents Mount Everest, however, all distances and just running in general should garner equal respect and both are great accomplishments. I feel like some beginning runners feel as if they are forced to run a marathon to be considered a runner and that’s flat out wrong. In fact, the greatest distance runner of all said the following:

It’s worth noting that there isn’t much difference in the quality of runners who excel at both distances (5k and marathon). Haile Gebrselassie was the 5,000m world record-holder long before he claimed the world mark for the marathon.

There isn’t much difference in training either. Both races require a base of volume, tempo and VO2 max work. The marathon demands a few longer long runs. And the 5K adds some sessions for “speed.” But most of the training is the same.

When it comes down to it, we choose the race that works for us. For Tuttle, it’s the “fast and furious” nature of the 5K. Empey prefers the race that best suits her talent. As for me, 5Ks and 10Ks throughout the year provide my anchor to a healthier, happier lifestyle.

I will concede that I’ve run all the distances from 5k to the marathon and I find the 5k every bit as challenging as the marathon, of course if different ways, but equally challenging. Running near VO2 max levels is an experience and challenge in of itself, as is running for 26.2 miles and the level of endurance required. Both require incredible mental fortitude especially as you increase your performance. As with many others, I call the mile 20-24 mark in the marathon “The Wall,” however, I also refer to “The Wall,” in a 5k around the 2.2-2.6 mile mark when you are at or have entered the world of “oxygen debt.” Both require mental fortitude to push through.

Now, it’s noting that when I’m fortunate enough to discuss this topic will elite runners, they have absolute equal respect to any runner, at any distance from the 100 meter sprint to the marathon and every distance in-between. This is because they understand the training and commitment required to excel at “any distance.” I think we recreational runners should take notice.

I think this is an important topic because the issue isn’t whether you have run one block, one mile, a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon or ultra distance. As the article stated, “The question is whether we’re training, racing and making fitness a part of our lives, and that’s the long and short of it.” As I tell everybody, “Just Run.”


Here’s the link to the full article:

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