Thought for the Day

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Guilt and Passion, Running and Racing, Sucking and Not

A lot of similar thoughts floating around here.

There's no reason for feeling "guilty" or like you are any less of a runner because you prefer one kind of race to another. That's a little like thinking you're not really an artist if you draw with charcoal but you don't sculpt in marble.
Actually, though, it doesn't matter if you even ever want to race at all. For a lot of reasons, I like to race, but if I could never race again, I would still run, and enjoy it.

I don't really like the comparisons made between marathons and 5 and 10 K races. It's apples and oranges. But apples and oranges are still both fruits.

By most ways of measuring it, of course it is harder to run a marathon. Assuming you are trying to get the fastest possible time, a marathon takes longer to run, longer to prepare, and longer to recover.
You can say that you've run a very hard 10 K. You might say it was as hard to do as a marathon. But imagine running that 10 K after running 20 miles. Would that make it easier?
It's interesting to me that elite marathoners will often comment on how tough it must be for those who are running hours after the leaders finish. I don't think there is the same sympathy for 30 and 40 minute 5 K runners. It is just easier to run that distance.

From running track, cross country, and 5 and 10 K road races, I know that other distances present their own challenges. Racing a mile, you try to squeeze every fraction of a second out of every stride.
Running a 5K, a loss of focus for a few yards can make a noticeable difference in your time.
Running a marathon, at least at my pace, is completely different. I'm not at all concerned about the seconds passing early in the race.
What's important is that I feel comfortable. There's no time to be that comfortable in those shorter races.
If the first lap of a mile is easy, you're not racing. When you come to the end of a 5 K, you should be out of breath and exhausted.
But then when you get 20 miles into a marathon, you have a different kind of exhaustion, something you will never experience in a shorter race, and you will have miles to go.

But I was a runner for about 25 years before I was a marathoner. I'm really not much of a marathoner now. And I'm not an ultra-marathoner.
I'm not less of a runner than I would be if I ran ultras. I wasn't less of a runner than I am now before I ran a marathon. I'm not less of a runner than I would be if I was faster.
It's all just different races, or different kinds of running. Marathons aren't for everyone. Racing isn't for everyone. It's all good.



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