Any runner, hundred-meter hurdler to ultramarathoner, has wondered, “Should I go farther or should I go faster?” Most have probably asked themselves this question several times throughout the course (no pun intended) of their running careers.
My gut answer to this question has always been to go faster. Why move to a new distance when I can focus on and master the distances I’ve done? I’m willing to try new things, but my personal improvement usually means a faster time, not a longer race.
Thankfully I joined a club with a very eclectic mix of runners after college. Every day I am exposed to all sorts of amazing people running all sorts of distances and terrains. Each one of these people have helped me break out of my regular 5k/5mile/10k/occasional-half-marathon routine. It took me a couple of years in RVRR to really break out and agree to run a marathon, and I have to admit that I was initially inspired by only two things:
- It seemed like everyone and their brother was either training for a marathon or had just finished one. “Might as well see what all the fuss is about!”
- A handful of runners were attempting ultramarathons: “If that dude can run 50 miles, I can totally run half that.”
I eventually developed much deeper and more personal inspiration going into my first marathon, which carried me through my second and third marathons, but it essentially started as bandwagoning.
So what made me decide to run 34.1 miles at the “Train”ing Run a year and a half after my first 26.2? Significant brain cell loss from hurling on the streets of Philly? Epically long-lasting heatstroke from Boston?
Yes No Partially.
I had the training base, after Philly in November and Boston in April, so I knew I could do it. That peace of mind was the majority of it, but there’s another element. An element of patience… or, as I like to call it, “getting (mentally) old.” I still find the 5k exhilarating, maintain that a 5-miler is the perfect race distance, and I still think about training to race a fast, chaotic 800m, but my old soul finds them all just a tad too rushed these days.
It’s not to say I’m going to go out and run another ultramarathon distance anytime soon. Heck, I’m not even doing another marathon this year! But everyone needs that something to rejuvenate them and reinvigorate their spirit, and a solid, off-road long run may have become my pick-me-up. (Yes, I see the irony in this. Rejuvenates the soul, deadens the legs.)
Thankfully I won’t do these very often. I was runner-up in the RVRR Ugliest Feet Contest well before the “Train”ing Run, and I’m pretty sure I’d lock down the win for life if I did regular 5.5 hour runs. I’m not sure that’s something to aspire to. ((shudder))
Bonus for Meghan and Ian, who totally thought of this when reading the title of this post: