Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cutting Back To Move Forward

I ran my first marathon, in Memphis, TN in December of 1992. Well, that's not exactly true. I trained - or overtrained - for my first marathon during the fall of 1992. I didn't read anything about training, didn't have a training plan, just a stubborn determination. I made it to mile 6.

I complete my first marathon nearly a year later in Columbus, OH. I had a training plan, and a training partner. I had a race strategy and a very cool "engineer's" hat. I ran at least one marathon a year EVERY year from 1993 to 2006. That's 14 years. And some of those years I ran as many as 6 marathons. That's not a lot if you're one of the marathon maniacs, but it was a lot for me.

The marathon in 2006 was part of the Walt Disney World "Goofy" challenge. As it got late in 2007 I got worried about breaking my streak. Once or twice I started on a marathon training schedule only to get a certain distance and just think "no way". In 2008 I tried a couple of times to complete a half marathon training program. I started out with good intentions, but never got past a 12 mile run.

What I've discovered is what I knew when I started out. I like the shorter distances. I like running shorted distances, training for shorter distances, and racing the shorter distances. I can run more often, run harder and faster - fast for me - and find it easier to fit the training into my day. It works for me.

Why, then, do I feel guilty about REALLY liking the 5K distance? Why is it that I think that training for, and participating in, a 5K is somehow "less than" training for and participating in a half marathon or full marathon? I don't know. But I have some thoughts.

The running "industry" loves the long distances races. They can charge big fees, they can attract big crowds, and they can make a ton of money. I'm not being critical. I've certainly benefitted from the 2nd running boom's desire to run long distances at huge races.

What I miss, though, is the spirit and sense of community that you find in local races. I ran a small 4 mile run last Thanksgiving and had a GREAT time. I didn't have a great "time", but I was able to push myself just a little because I knew the distance was well within my capabilities.

These days I'm running 3 miles a day - or walking 2 miles - nearly every day. I can do that because I'm not worried about long runs. And, to be honest, I'm having more fun than I have in years.

So, it's not that I'm bashing the long distances and giant races. I'll be at all of the Rock 'n' Roll Series events this year. I'm just saying that for me - and maybe others - the joy of running is still the best reason to run, whatever that distance turns out to be.

Waddle on,


Shannon Donley said...

Wow john, thanks for this post. I'm finding the long runs are hard and that I like the shorter distances, we all. I am not going to set aside my ambition for the long races, I want to do at least one marathon, but I am discovering that the joy for me is seeming to me to be around the 10K mark. I am still working toward a finisher medal in May and would like to finish a marathon by the time I have my 45th birthday, but the shorter distance t-shirts are just as important to me as the long distance ones. Take care, and thanks again.

Jill Will Run said...

Thank you for validating my current feelings! I started running just 2 years ago. In that time I have done 3 marathons. (Well, finished 2 and DNF'd my most recent one due to tripping and falling on my face!) But since that last one, I've just felt like I wanted to keep my daily running shorter and less intense. For some reason I've felt guilty about that concept when explaining it to others, like I'm no longer a tough runner (especially considering my friends are training for an ultra).

Your books (and listening to you speak in San Antonio at the TNT pasta party) contain a lot of really inspiring messages. I'm finding I have to constantly remind myself to "run my own race"!

Becca said...

One more great thing about smaller events:

I ran a local 5K in December, and placed 2nd in my age group!!

Of course, there were only two people in my age group, but the medal doesn't say that.

Calidaho said...

Good to know you run 3 miles a day. I have often wondered what a reasonable routine would look like. I am running one mile a day--working up to more. Hoping to get to 15-20 miles logged a week, some day!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Misty said...

This is very timely for me! I started running a little over two years ago (after reading Courage to Start). I've run a few half marathons and keep thinking I *need* to run a full marathon some day (and a bit guilty that I'm not actually motivated to do it). My husband got into running shortly after me and he's completed one marathon and wants do many more, maybe even an ultra some day. But the truth is, after about mile 9, I don't feel like running anymore and I don't really *like* running after that point. During every 1/2 I've done, I've said "I NEVER want to do a full marathon." I really enjoy 6 mile runs. It's long enough that I feel I've gotten a good workout and short enough that I can work on speed a little (I'm by NO means fast, I'm a self-proclaimed penguin, but I do get a little sense of satisfaction when I improve my time).

I'm signed up for a 1/2 in May and I think I'll go ahead and go through with it (I sound so motivated, don't I?), but after that, I think I'm going to keep my eyes open for fun 10Ks, 15Ks or 10 milers.

Kevin said...

Great update John. So tell me, I know you have said you run very slow during your marathons and training for them. Do you “ Gallo-Walk” these days? I haven’t run a marathon since 1996 (Twin Cities) but another one is on my “Bucket List”!


Kelly's runner said...


I think there is something so fun about racing frequently at the shorter distances. You can race almost every weekend if you want to.

I like the challenge of running marathons, but I am limited on a really good year to 2 or 3 max. There are no limits like that on running 5K races.

I am going to run a 5K on Sunday with virtually no training. Can't do that for the longer distances.

Val said...

I knew there was a good reason I surfed by!
After an irregular winter of illnesses/injuries & poor training, I downgraded my plans to run a half at the end of Feb, & "only" did 10K... What a wonder to feel GOOD after a race, instead of needing a week to recover after whipping myself thru a half.