What is your specialty?

Runner’s World recently posted this little essay on marathons just not being enough anymore. I found it very applicable to many runners here in Austin, where we have a big running scene with lots of races. So many runners discover running through local road runs: 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, etc. They master those, and now the trend seems to be jumping to ultra running.

Now, if you had the pleasure of running track in high school or college, you have a slightly different perspective. Higher miles does not always equal higher difficulty. Ever run a “real” 800 or mile? It’s freakin‘ hard. Try training for the mile, like a real miler or 1500 runner. It’s harder than any marathon long run I’ve ever done. And many track coaches swear the 800 is one of the hardest distances to race….tougher than the marathon.
Most of us aren’t going to be out creating track teams for the middle aged, but ever race a road 5K? Another totally freakin‘ hard run. I do not do 5ks in general, because I am lazy. To really experience it and RACE, hurts.
My best couple years of running I raced a lot of 10Ks and half marathons. I got my half to 1:26 and my 10K to 40 minutes (these are the only times of mine I really remember). When training for the marathon, I did long runs every other week, and took an off day. I ran my best marathon. I pretty religiously followed a training plan for the marathon, minus track workouts, but I did tempo runs.
When I started doing ultras, I ran long every weekend. Really long. I quit racing 10Ks. I decreased my off days. I slowed way down.
My point to all this is longer runs don’t need to define how good or tough you are as a runner. With my new time limitations, I won’t be doing a 100 miler or 50 any time soon. There are other goals out there though. Getting faster at shorter distances is no walk in the park.
I also think most of us have a distance we are just better at. As much as I love long, long runs, my performances indicate they are not my specialty. I think I probably am better at the 10K-1/2 marathon distance. Now, I am not giving up my hopes of returning to ultra running someday. I just probably will not do one of the extreme really long, really rocky type races, which for me, are mostly power hikes. Unless you are a pretty nimble person, most runners do significant amounts of walking during these. I am sticking to ultras you can run. We have several in the area, in addition to more extreme events.
When I did my first 50, I had the goal in my head for many, many years. I would not have done it had we not had the Sunmart races here, which I had heard about for a long time, and they did not require lots of technical terrain training, just lots of miles. I think after that I did fall victim to constantly upping the ante. I am glad I did all that I did, but I am looking forward to creating some new challenges for myself that don’t involve trying to get in 40 mile training runs in 90 degree heat going up and down hills.
So, I challenge my running friends to find their specialties. Maybe it is not extreme distance. I know the lure of ultras is appealing: running in beautiful places, doing what you did not think was possible, the wonderful feeling of achieving a big goal, and let’s admit it, some bragging rights. But all those things are possible in shorter distances too.
Of note, today was the first day of the 40 Day Yoga Challenge. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday. I went to a very challenging class. Today, no chance of a class, but I kicked it off with a 30 minute DVD.

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