Friday, September 27, 2013

Things I Don't Get

As someone who works with a variety of different athletes, I've got the bases covered on the different reasons people train.  While most people train to push their limits, what that actually means can equate to a wide range of motivations.  Everything from completing a new distance to setting a PR to not getting hurt; these are all valid reasons people train.

However, at the same time, there are a number of things that I simply don't get.  And while I support any method that gets one moving, I am constantly reminded of the premise of this article, which is probably why I don't get the things I am about to mention.  To me, it isn't about the slowing down of race times, which has nothing to do with the assumption that we are getting slower.  The slowing down in actuality might have more to do with a larger sample size of participants and the fact that many of these runners are people who might not have participated in running races previously due to it being a fringe sport.  We now find running as a sport that accepts people of all speeds and levels of experience, so we see a large participant base of runners just starting the sport spread across many more races that now exists, hence slower times. 

However, to me this article hits on the concept that many people aren't just into training for and running a given race.  And I agree with that.  Many see this as the anti-competitive runner mindset.  Their schedules are filled with races with little to no interest in finishing them in a given time.  Or in some cases, they aren't even "races".  To them, the goal is to complete them all.  This is nothing new though.  The Marathon Maniacs have been around for a while now.  This is just another spin off that same general mindset of quantity over quality.  Anyways, my point is that whether you like it or not, people get into the sport of running for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with performance and others are on the exact opposite of the spectrum.

I get the idea and hear many runners say it all the time: "We'll I'm not competitive, so I do races for fun."  While I agree that there are many alternatives to competitive racing, I think many of these people fail to understand that everyone CAN be competitive.  To me, running isn't about what others are doing.  Your race results aren't defined by how everyone else did (unless you are racing to win, which most of us are not).  Your results show how you are able to be competitive with yourself against your own times.  Everyone can set a PR.  Being competitive with yourself means training to beat that time.  I just want to make sure people are clear - being a competitive runner has nothing to do with speed or place.  It has to do with a mindset and how you approach your training.

So while I understand many of these non-competitive reasons and motivations, I just don't get most of the actions these runners take or for that matter, actions some competitive minded runners make.  Here are just a few off the top of my head:

  1. Training Marathons - While there is a time and a place for putting races in the middle of a training cycle, some runners take training races to a whole new level.  For example, when training for a marathon, there is no reason to run a full marathon before your race.  This may sound foolish to those who know better, but so many people are under the false assumption that you need to run 26.2 miles before your actual marathon.  You simply are putting too much risk of injury into a single workout, while also compromising future training as a result of the recovery time needed after the race.  What results is a sub-par marathon performance in your training race, sub-par training because you need to factor in recovery, and likely a sub-par goal marathon because of a lack of optimal training.  At the end of the day, you end up with less than optimal results and potential injury.  In my eyes, if you are training to do well at a race, do it right.
  2. Streaking - I know many people who are oddly proud of their impressive run streaks dating back years or in some cases decades.  That's great, but I don't see how a streak serves any purpose other than forcing you to compromise your health at the expense of continuing with a streak.  I've known people who run through stress fractures to keep their streak alive and/or received them as a result of continual stress from run streaks.  Your body is always sending feedback about how it feels.  Refusing to listen to it will always result in one thing - injury.  Count me on the list of people who tries to avoid the "i" word as often as possible.  So while I'm all for non-performance goals, streaking is one of them that I believe encourages ignoring the signals your body gives you and can lead you down the wrong path.
  3. Multiple Race Events - Popularized by the Goofy Challenge, and now the even more ridiculous Dopey Challenge, the whole goal of these events is to complete the races.  Nobody can run them competitively (and I mean this in terms of your own relative best as mentioned above), so we are again faced with another situation of doing what you can to not get hurt.  After shelling out so much money to both participate in the events and stay reasonably close, it seems like such as waste to jog a 5k, 10k, and half marathon, only to hope your body is still capable of supporting you for another 26.2 miles.  Not only do you get 4 medals for each race, but you actually get 6 (!) because you get the Goofy and Dopey Challenge medals as well.  Talk about a medal obsessed culture!  If you are interested in running a long distance over an extended period of time, why not sign up for an ultra?  Seems to make more sense, since you'd pay a whole lot less.  Then again, you'd only get a buckle or something less blingy, so there's that.
  4. Running Faster Than Planned in Workouts - This doesn't have to do with non-competitive types, but more of a general observation of something I don't get.  Some people don't have an idea of what paces they should be running, so they just do what others do or they simply run faster than planned to show how they "killed it".  Wrong.  Running faster than planned, no matter if it is an easy run or speedwork means you won't get the desired training benefit of the workout.  What do you get?  More stress on your body than you bargained for and a bragging instagram photo as your #proof. If you have a plan, stick to it.  Goal paces aren't meant to be "beaten".  If you constantly beat them, you are either running your workouts too hard or you don't have realistic goals.  Either option isn't great.
I'm sure there are lots more that I could list, but you get the idea.  In my mind, this is why coaches exist: To encourage you to achieve your goals, while still keeping running fun.  I'm not saying all training has to be serious.  I simply mean that many runners would be better off listening to someone who knows what they are doing, rather than trying to do it themselves or copying what others do.  Each person is an individual requiring individual approaches.  Most of us lack the self awareness to train the right way without giving in to the temptation to do what everyone else is doing.  Train smart and be consistent is all I like to say.  The rest is just details.

Are there any other things about runners that you just don't get?

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