“What’s the farthest you’ve run?“
The question many runners dread being asked. As if that is a legitimate metric by which to judge the seriousness of our run love.
What is it about distance that makes us feel like more of a “real runner”?
We’ve all said or heard it before.
“Oh, I’m not a runner. I just run a couple miles here or there.”
“I’m not a serious runner because I only do 5k’s.”
“You’re not a real runner until you lose a toenail.”
We are so quick to dismiss our own running ability because we don’t fall into a certain speed corral at the start line or because we haven't hit a certain distance race yet.
The "marathon" is so highly regarded as the true runner distance, after Pheidippides ran roughly that distance from Marathon to Athens as a messenger during the Battle of Marathon and immediately dropped dead upon arrival.
Buuuuut he also ran roughly 150 miles in the two days prior. So which should really be the marathon distance? 150? 25? 150+25?
Now nearly all of us look like slackers.
Science vs. Ego
I have been struggling with this concept the past year. I’m still in my twenties and all reading materials encourage the twenty-somethings to focus on speed over distance, while so many view
distance as the mark of a true runner. The book says to utilize youth with a killer VO₂ max and all those fast twitch muscle fibers by keeping the races short and fast. Social media says, “Oh, you ran 12 miles today? That’s cute. I did 31. One day you’ll grow up to be a big kid runner.”
Now it’s May, and I’m rethinking all of my race schedule. Awesome. I didn’t realize a late-twenties existential crisis would surface regarding RUNNING of all things.
Ultimately, we have to do what makes us happiest, but that’s a challenge with outside influence from social media and friends. I hate long distance training; but I love long distance on trails without technology. I hate the taste of metal in my throat from speed work and hill repeats, but love seeing the quick PBs when training.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so stuck in the middle.
Is it a waste to focus on shorter races for training purposes, but then go hit a trail for 15 miles as a rest day? Do we have to let go of the ego of wanting to be a long distance runner and accept the reality of being a properly trained middle distance runner? Will we gain more satisfaction by following science over what we WANT because we see others HAVE it?
Stop Being A Child
Let’s put this into perspective of a child. Tommy has a toy you want because he has it and it seems flashy, even if it’s not the type of toy you would be gravitated towards on your own.
In fact, it’s not something you would pick out for yourself if you were left alone at the toy store.
But Tommy has it. You saw it. He seems so proud and smug about it.
Now you must has toy.
Is this how we want our training and racing to be? Really? Because others do it and it seems like the cooler thing?
We can't let others' successes and abilities tarnish our own. Yes, you can undoubtedly run far, train for long distance, and be great at it. But do you have the time or want to right now? Or is it solely centered around Tommy having it and you watching him post his amazing times on IG every day?
As we enter the thick of racing season, it's time to reflect and reality check yourself.
You can work towards Pheidippides, but he also kinda sorta died.
I accept being a middle distance runner… for now.