Running as a participation sport is all about challenges, go further, higher, faster or muddier etc.. This is great, a strive to improve is what keeps us moving forwards as athletes.
I recognise that as an athlete I’m suited to efforts of between about 30 mins and 2 hours – I’m an endurance athlete who can complete - but not compete - at the much longer challenges. The marathon is where I’ve come unstuck in this as a concept. Despite knowing my limitations and preferences I knew that I had to race a marathon, just to set a PB and so that I could say I’d run one. As a coach, people ask me for my marathon PB and before today it was almost 4 hours – my only 42.2km runs were part of training runs for, or competing in, Ultramarathons.
As of Sunday I’ve run a marathon, my time was OK but most importantly I’ve completed the challenge – it’s out of my system now and I’ll never ever run another one. I’ve learned a lot from the experience of running a large participation marathon and that’s knowledge I can pass on to my athletes so it’s been a really worthwhile time for the me as a coach. But for me as an athlete it has been nothing short of revelatory because now I’m free. The things which are expected of me as a runner – or that I perceive are expected – have been fulfilled adequately and now I can do what I want.
So I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want: to go faster rather than further. There are loads of great races for me, Maverick trail races, road races from 10km to 21.1km, 5,000 on the track, parkrun, cross-country or even fell running. I love everything about these types of shorter races, the training, the speed, the higher volume of races on my calendar, the pain of running hard…
It’s easy to believe that the ultimate goal for an endurance runner is to be running marathons. We’re endurance athletes therefore we must endure! But I think it’s fine to resist that pressure and in fact it will be beneficial physiologically and psychologically to specialise in events that you’re good at. Running should be fun, we literally pay money to enter these races so do the ones you enjoy.
So, over winter and next year, I’ll be concentrating on speed, I’ll go properly quick and when I break 80 mins for a half marathon and 17 mins at parkrun* I’ll feel absolutely incredible.
*times can get slower as well as faster, Andy is not getting any younger, please read the terms and conditions.