I've recently been thinking a lot about these two terms . . . plus the relationship of speed vs distance. At some point my ponderings will make some sense to you. But now just prepare yourself to be bored.
One Facebook post last week really got me thinking. Basically it said something like "Anybody can run a marathon, but how may can run a 5k in sub-20?" Interesting comments and basically true. I worked quite hard for years but never was able to run a sub-20 5k. My best was a 20:01 . . . close but no cigar. I really worked hard trying . . . hill training, intervals, strong tempo runs, long runs. But was never able to close the deal. I'm thinking that part of the answer is genetics . . . some folks can just run faster. And some folks can bust their ass in focused training and NEVER do it.
I agree that anyone CAN run a marathon. It may take awhile, but anyone can finish one. But most folks are intimidated and simply never try. Or when they look at a training program, the long runs simply scare them off.
There is no comparison of the pain involved either. A 5k hurts . . . bad for a few minutes. But then it's over and recovery happens in 5 minutes. Any marathon is significantly more painful! The pain starts in the last third of the race and may not fully leave for a couple of weeks for some folks trying their first marathon. In my mind finishing a marathon is a much more meaningful accomplishment . . . even if I had finally gone sub-20 I am certain I would still feel this way.
So in my mind, distance is more significant than speed. But that's just me. And likely I feel this way in part due to my lack of speed! Let's face it . . . I'm not fast! 20:01 5k and a 3:58 marathon best. Middle of the pack at best! So maybe my infatuation with distance is understandable and if I were a faster runner I would be more interested in speed.
One other reason too I believe. Once I finally quit focusing on my time . . . my enjoyment in running increased SIGNIFICANTLY! I simple started have way more fun! I started taking pictures during my marathons and ultras and I love looking back at the pictures and re-living the run! And remembering all the people I met and things I saw. And recovery takes only a day or two.
So I became an ultra runner. For the uninformed, an ultramarathon is any run that exceeds the distance of a marathon . . . 26.2 miles. So if you run 26.3 miles you have officially met the criteria of being an ultra runner. But most ultramarathons are at least 31 miles (50 k) or longer. Popular distances are 50k, 50 miles, 100k, and 100 miles. I've completed all these distances in races with the exception of the 100 miler. That one has evaded me. Three attempts and three failures. (How many 5k races are there where anyone fails to complete the full 5k?)
In my mind if you have completed any ultramarathon within the cut-off time allowed you are an ultrarunner . . . forever! Even if you never do another ultra . . . you have qualifed as an ultrarunner. Period.
But I've recently become conflicted about the speed thing. See . . . I've had to slow down even further. Walk way more and run way less. Earlier this year I completed 50 miles during a 24 hour race. And honestly I felt like a second-class citizen. None of the other runner made me feel this way . . . my feelings were totally self-imposed. I didn't run . . . at all. I just walked.
Honestly, it was still hard. Very hard. I hurt. Bad. It was a painful effort, but I did it . . . and I was proud. I know that many people would not have gone through that much pain just to finish a measly 50 miles at a 24 hour event.
But I was still bummed that I didn't run.
So here is the question. Let's say this my only ultra event, would I be an ultra runner after completing this? Part of me says absolutely yes. But another part of me says no.
And if walking it all doesn't qualify me as an ultra runner in that case, how much of it would I have had to run for it to qualify? Do you have to run 100% of the distance? (I don't think so!) How about 75%? 50% How about 10%? Folks that practice a walk / run approach in my mind are definitely ultra runners. And how many folks that have completed a 100 mile event have run it all? Almost none!!! Virtually everybody walks at least some.
I guess it really only matters what I think. But somehow other peoples opinions matter to me too.
Godiva President's Column for March
1 month ago