On a recent run with the Club, we were discussing various routes and distances to cover that day. Like most runners I have several “courses” that I use. We were talking about the possibility of a shorter 3-4 mile run instead of the usual 6-8 miler when Mr. Hotshot spoke up and started trashing the rest of the group. “3 miles? What? Why would you even bother to lace 'em up for that? 3 miles....pleeeeeze.” Mr. Hotshot is a “big-time” marathoner and ultra runner that can't be bothered with shorter, and in his opinion, less challenging runs. Truth be told, he is kind of an arrogant jerk but we put up with him because he is part of the Club.
This statement ruffled a few feathers and really pissed Tyler off. His response, “Okay Hotshot, lets race. 3 miles. Tough distance for me but obviously EASY for you, so lets go.” The race was on and we all ran with as much effort as we could muster. Tyler, a gutty and tough runner with a never-quit attitude, took the lead early and never let up. The rest of us, including Mr. “Ultra-runner” Hotshot, followed close behind. When it was all over, the entire group was humped over with hands on my-our- knees, breathing hard and ready to puke. Hotshot was JUST as tired as the rest of us despite this being a distance hardly worthy of his “lacing 'em up”.
So many times I have heard, “I ONLY ran a couple of miles- that's nothing for you. YOU run marathons.” I used to be like Mr. Hotshot and think that was an accurate statement until I thought about how STUPID it was to believe that. The distance can only be measured one way- 1 mile is 1mile no matter how you look at it. Pace and conditioning may differ but the distance does not. Yeah, I could probably creep along in an effortless jog without much trouble but if I put forth the same EFFORT as that person, it will not be an easy task.
YOU ONLY GET OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN........A 5 minute miler is no more or less tired than a 12 minute miler IF the effort is equal. I think it is just as big of an achievement to run a sub 20 or an over 40 minutes in a 5k as long as the EFFORT put forth is equal. Some runners only measure success by speed and place rather than the effort of their pace. It is silly to think that you are not a runner because Mr. Hotshot can go farther, longer or faster. Equal effort equals the same result....heavy breathing and sore muscles. It may take Mr. Hotshot less time to cover the miles or to recover and head to the beer garden but he still knows that the distance is HARD no matter how many times he has gone farther.
I really believe that anybody can run a marathon distance with a training plan, dedication and time commitment but to run it up to their potential takes EFFORT. I remember when I was feeling pretty good about getting 8-10 miles a week in and then talking to people that were running 50-60 miles per week. It was overwhelming and a little embarrassing at first. As time passed I noticed that these runners were struggling through the same miles as I was during 5 and 10k's. I came to understand the “reality of running” is not about how far or fast you can go but rather that you CAN go. Time on the road will increase endurance and the distances will grow from 1 to 5 miles and beyond. Pace and distance is irrelevant in the reality of running- it is the EFFORT that counts.
Mr. Hotshot no longer complains when we take it “easy” on him and cut the distance short, he understands that over equal distances and equal effort he is no more – or less- a runner than the rest of us.
This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........