This is probably going to step on some toes. Just a little warning.
It gets tiring hearing people say "Oh it's just a 5k/10k. Psssht. I'm a real runner. I run marathons" - excuse me? Good for you - glad you're running. However, just because someone runs "just a 5k" doesn't make them any less of a runner. Explain to me how running a 16:00 5k makes you less of a runner than someone running a 7 hour marathon? Because you're running a shorter distance? Because the training didn't take your entire weekend? Not quite sure where the "longer is better" mentality came from, but it's a bit disheartening to those who enjoy (and are good at) the shorter distances. Many of us run toward endurance distances for a challenge with the mentality that going longer is the only way to challenge yourself. But guess what? Improving your speed over shorter distances is also an incredibly worthy goal.
Many beginner runners rush straight toward the longer distances, missing the valuable development experience found in the shorter distances. Due to genetics, development, training time/work schedules, location, etc we are not all designed to run the longer distances, yet that has become the default goal.
So that being said, as runners swarm toward these longer distances, completion has become the goal as well an indicator of success. How hard someone trained or raced in combination with the racing techniques and lessons learned all become devalued in the face of simply "completing" the distance. We all want the 26.2 sticker for our car, but why not truly race to earn it? (That being said, sometimes completion needs to be your goal if you are coming off an injury or perhaps it is your first time trying a longer distance).
As this has become the new running reality, how can a shorter distance (no matter how hard you trained) ever compare to the esteemed 13.1/26.2/Ironman. Now that completion has seemed to become our ultimate goal in the running community, the distance no longer seems to matter, despite how hard the athlete trained. Numbers are meaningless when we focus simply on completion. What is the athlete's story? What were their goals? Did they reach them? Did they leave it all on the course? Did they adequately prepare both mentally and physically? Did they take calculated risks and chances? Did they race properly (form/technique)? This is where the distinction between completion and racing lies. Maybe your best is a 5 hour marathon. Well, as long as you trained your hardest, raced your heart out, and met your goals, then rock on fellow runner! You gave it your all, and you raced today. Congrats. We all know not everyone can be an Olympic caliber athlete, and that's okay. But - when you work hard and reach a PR, it's much more satisfying to know you gave it your all both in training and on race day then simply completing a race.
So, what makes a racer vs. a runner?
So, by this definition, EVERYONE has the potential to race (as opposed to complete) a race, no matter your speed. That being said, not everyone is ready to actually race certain distances, and that's okay.
It's time we stop viewing shorter distances as little stops along the way to the "final destination" - we need to give these distances credit for what they truly are. Worthwhile goals. If you're one who scoffs at those who like to race 5ks, give one a shot. Really try. Train hard. You might be surprised with what you learn.
Who Picks the Topics?
Each week, we notice different things. We try to incorporate the questions we are receiving or the training issues we are noticing into our post(s) for the week. If there is something you'd like us to cover, let us know!