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July 11, 2010 / elodie kaye

Strength, Self-Knowledge and Speed

Once you have gazed into your runner strengths and weaknesses, the easiest strategy is to pick your race distances to match the kind of running you like to do the most.  Keith already did this by instinct.  He likes short, fast intervals; he’s only run one 5K so far, but that’s the distance that glitters most brightly to him.  Sara notes her efficient gait, and a propensity to race her training runs.  She runs 4 – 6 miles daily, so she could be a 10K specialist.  I like tempo runs, so I gravitated to 10-milers.

It’s a continuum though, so Keith might also enjoy 10Ks as he develops as a runner and gains more endurance.  Sara might race 5K very well with more experience and some more speedwork for confidence.  I’ve raced a variety of distances several times over, and if you plug my half-marathon PR into a race equivalent calculator, you’ll find that all my other PRs fall short of the mark, more so the farther away it is from my favourite race distance.  In fact, if you’re baffled by what your strengths could be, you can explore them by training for a 10K, and then a half, and then maybe a 5K.  You’ll probably find some race distances rev your engine more than others.

It is a mistake to let your daily running paces influence your self-assessment of strengths and weaknesses.  I’ve rarely run better than a 10-minute mile daily, but that doesn’t make me suited to be a marathoner, an ultra-marathoner, or a trail runner, even though my paces are commonplace in those groups.  I doubt Keith knew he’d enjoy blazing 5Ks, when he started the year running the same paces as mine.

Kristin, who’s part of our informal running group, snaps off 8-minute miles daily and owns an enviable marathon PR of 3:36.  Her dream weekend entails 50K of up- and downhill slip-sliding, dodging roots, and skinning knees.  We both ran our half-marathon PRs at the same race.  Whenever we talk about it, she reminds the rest of our group how I blew by her without so much as a nod.  I maintain I didn’t have enough oxygen for my eyes after the 10-mile mark.  I ran the half-marathon equivalent to Kristin’s full marathon PR, in an outcome that took us both by surprise.  That day we discovered the half-marathon distance is where we meet on equal footing.  In shorter races like the 10-mile or 15K, I race to my strength while she gets farther from hers.  Nonetheless, on any given easy day, she can run my feet off.

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