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.